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Sweet Woodland Farm grows ingredients for homeopathic healing. (Photo credit: David Benthal)

Sweet Woodland Farm is not like the other farms leased by Peconic Land Trust. In fact, it is not like most farms on the North Fork: they grow the ingredients for homeopathic healing. 

Walking along Rachel Stephens’ 3-acre plot of farmland, rows of crops are dedicated to numerous species of medicinal and culinary herbs, spices and berries. Stephens started the farm in 2018, though her interest in horticulture is lifelong. 

“I’ve spent the majority of my life in some sort of garden and I’ve always had a deep belief in the body’s ability to heal itself,” said Stephens. “Peconic Land Trust gave me the opportunity to lease farmland by the acre and grow healing herbs. They encourage and support us in finding a farm niche on the North Fork.” 

Peconic Land Trust’s Farm for the Future initiative provides farmland to small farmers who might otherwise be forgotten as the North Fork continues to grow in popularity with visitors and full-time residents. They provide an array of tools, such as walk-behind mowers with different attachments to aid farmers in getting the most out of their farmland. 

Stephens is proud of her farm’s unique crops. The collection of medicinal herbs she produces is not something commonly found on Long Island. She is also one of the only herb farmers to dry her herbs on site, just after harvesting. 

Rachel Stephens grows unique crops such as elderberries, lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, marshmallow root, echinacea, lavender, sage, ginger and turmeric. (Photo credit: David Benthal)

“All of our fresh herbs are dried on-site in a shed,” said Stephens. “Over the summer, that shed reaches over 100 degrees, as it’s located in full sun and has a black roof. We can dry out herbs in as quickly as three days, which is super efficient and not something seen often at other small-scale farms.” 

Sweet Woodland Farm emphasizes the importance of home-grown homeopathic herbs and spices. The name is derived from Stephens’ mother’s maiden name, Zoethout, which is Dutch for “sweet wood.” Stephens’ mother is also an artist, drawing the sage leaf that has now become the farm’s logo. 

“A sage is somebody who has a lot of knowledge,” said Stephens. “It is very purifying and cleansing. I wanted that represented in my logo to let people know of the type of products I’m growing and selling.” 

Looking out across the 3-acre farm, it is easy to spot their most viable product. In homeopathic farming across the world, elderberries are the holy grail. And Sweet Woodland Farm grows millions of them per season. 

“I’m always wondering what can grow in my climate. I’m always looking for new medicinal herbs to cure ailments my family experiences at home.” 

Rachel Stephens, Sweet Woodland Farm

These tiny yet powerful dark purple berries are packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C that benefit the immune system. They have anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce stress, protect your heart and are utilized as remedies for the flu, to improve skin complexion and even to heal burns.

“Surprisingly, elderberries can grow virtually anywhere in the United States,” Stephens said. “Elderberries are not commonly farmed on Long Island, even though they are native to the land. We have four different varieties of American black elderberries on our farm. We stagger their growing cycles to harvest for a longer duration and to allow for cross pollination.”

For most of the produce grown at Sweet Woodland Farms, Stephens does extensive research on their history. 

“These berries have been used as remedies for thousands of years and I love learning the folklore behind them,” said Stephens. “To pick elderberries in Scandinavian culture, you must ask the permission of Hyldemoer, the witch that protects the elderberry, or she will curse you. Other mythologies warn you not to fall asleep under the elders or fairies will steal you and bring you to the underworld. These tales are fascinating to learn alongside the real healing properties of the elderberries.” 

Stephens and her team are careful to respect the cultural significance of homeopathic herbs. Some of what is grown at the farm does have deep ties to cultural and religious ceremonies from around the world. 

“I don’t use terms like ‘smudge sticks’ nor do I grow white sage. Certain Native American tribes cleanse the air with white sage and smudge sticks and have for thousands of years,” Stephens said. “But lots of cultures do burn other herbs to cleanse the air, and I want to still provide that general practice with the herbs I grow. I use terms like ‘smoke wand’ to show that I appreciate the practice but don’t want to appropriate the culture.” 

Aside from elderberries, Sweet Woodland Farms grows a wide array of medicinal herbs including lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, marshmallow root, echinacea, lavender, sage, ginger and turmeric. Stephens makes full use out of every part of each product on her farm. 

“We sell the berries themselves, the cuttings and also make products with them,” said Mia Mistina, who’s been working on the farm since 2020 and has become Stephens’ second-in-command. “We like to experiment with what we can grow and make here.” 

Currently, Sweet Woodland Farm’s best selling product is their elderberry syrup, which contains elderberry juice, raw honey, ginger, lemon, cinnamon and cloves. They also sell an array of tonics, tinctures, teas, salves, cuttings and smoke wands. 

“I try to only use things that are grown at the farm,” Stephens said. “All of my practices are organic and sustainable. There are so many things you get at the store, such as Neosporin, that occur naturally in nature — without the nasty chemicals.” 

Stephens also keeps up with wellness trends. She is typically enrolled in some sort of herbalism course or reading reference books on the subject. 

“I am always asking myself, would people or myself benefit from having that available,” said Stephens. “I’m always wondering what can grow in my climate. I’m always looking for new medicinal herbs to cure ailments my family experiences at home.” 

Sweet Woodland’s homeopathic and wellness products are available at farmers’ markets throughout the East End. Stephens also sells her teas, tinctures and syrups on her website’s “farmacy.” Find more information at