NEWS

Meet the Crafters: Watermills Farm

December 6, 2014 | Halifax Crafters Society

 
Large-scale specialty tea stores have cropped up everywhere, providing liquid comfort for the dedicated loose tea fan. There’s something especially quaint, however, about picturing Michelle Engel, the crafter at Watermills Farm, planting and then scouring her and her partner’s farm lands in Lunenburg for herbs, combining them with fruit and then dehydrating them until they’re ready to steep.

“I wanted to grow organic food,” says Michelle. “Vegetable farming can be very intense in a lot of ways, so I started looking to my herb garden as a break from the grind of the vegetable patch.” Michelle found she enjoyed growing herbs and decided that herbal tea could be the right fit, offering, as she says “a small-scale farm niche where one woman could reasonably expect to work on her own.”
IMG_1885
“I’ve had great support from Pleasant Hill Farm, where I’ve been working this past season,” says Michelle. “We will see how it goes!”

Why did you choose the elements you did?  

I grow herbs because I love herbal tea and I love gardening. I’m also really into making things and crafting in general. 

What is your process?

I’m a farmer and a crafter. I grow herbs in my garden and tend them until they are ready to harvest. I harvest these plants along with wild plants growing on the land then set them to dry in hanging bunches in my barn, on screens or in a dehydrator.

tea

The dried herbs are stored until late fall when all the herbs and fruit have been harvested. Then I process and blend them to make a variety of tisanes, which I package and label with the help of my partner.

The reusable tea bags I will be bringing to the show are my own design. I cut and sew the bags myself from organic cotton fabric and thread.

How long have you been creating in this way?

This is my second year, so I’m really just starting out.

What is your background/How did you get started? 
 I’ve been pursuing an interest in organic vegetable farming for a few years, looking for land and dreaming about running a small-scale farm business. When my partner and I found our land last year, I set to work building gardens and planting the perennial and annual herbs that make up our line of tea.
IMG_1986
What do you believe makes your work unique? 
It’s rooted in a unique place, that’s for sure. My teas couldn’t come from anywhere but the farm where they are grown. I don’t know of many others who are growing, processing and packaging herbal tea.

When you’re not creating for the Crafters market, where can I find your work?

If I have any tea left over, I’ll be bringing it to the Lunenburg Farmers’ Market.

What makes Halifax Crafters different from other shows?

As a shopper, I love this show because of the variety and quality of the work. I’m so proud to be a part of it this year and I feel very grateful to the volunteers that have made it so amazing.

IMG_1882

What inspires you to create?

I get inspired by seed catalogues and hot drinks. Also, when I want something that’s a little different from what’s available, I feel driven to try and make it happen.

Where do you do your work?

I work in my garden, in the woods, in my barn, at the harvest table in front of the wood stove and also, at my computer.