Sweet Pea Gardens is an organic herbal tea farm run by Shelley Ruhlen, located in Eureka, California. Sweet Pea Gardens is a wonderful example of a small, value-added, farm business. From growing, to drying, to packaging, and selling, Shelly does it all.
Shelley, like many 20 somethings fresh out of college, decided that rather than pursuing a career in English (she completed her bachelors at the College of William and Mary), she wanted to get into organic farming. Shelly says “After studying organic farming in upstate New York, I packed a small backpack and got a ride to Arcata, California, where I had heard the farmers’ market was thriving. By the spring I was working in an organic vineyard and I learned all about the management of grapevines. I went on to learn all the ins and outs of that business before starting to work for other local farmers.”
With this inspiration and experience, she started her own organic veggie farm with a partner and specialized in tomatoes, lettuce mix, and strawberries. But through her 30’s, as her life changed and developed she realized that there was a gap in the local market for herbs. Seeing this niche, Shelley became interested in herbal teas, specifically Tulsi tea (also called holy basil). Over the next four years she worked on developing her herbal tea business, Sweet Pea Gardens.
Shelley admits that the tea business is a lot of work, more than you would think. She is currently deciding wether or not to diversify and add more fresh herbs and veggies back into her farm garden. She is currently running a crowd-funding campaign on indiegogo. She says through this fundraising she hopes to “be able to continue to provide quality products and education to my customers.” Her fundraising will help her to build a drying shed, a greenhouse, and a scholarship fund to help offer workshops and education.
Shelley’s full line of tea includes Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Tulsi, and Nettle. She offers them in bulk and in packages of 10 teabags each. She also saves her own seed and plans to offer them as well. You can find Sweet Pea Gardens’ teas at the two local Co-op’s and the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Arcata. She also offers tea via e-mail, and on Pick-A-Pepper. Sweet Pea Gardens is registered organic through the California State Organic Program.
To Donate to Sweet Pea Gardens click here.
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