Herbalist Betsey-Ann Golon – “Betz” – has been brewing up a mix of unique herbal products for more than 20 years.
A Maine native, Golon originally aspired to become a veterinarian, but the more she studied medicine at Virginia Tech, the more she became interested in botany (the scientific study of plants.) Golon holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in botany.
In 1985, she and her husband, Dale, bought their first farm, Common Folk Farm in Naples, where they started out growing strawberries to sell at local farmers markets. The farm eventually began selling several products, including green and herbal teas, herbal seasonings, fragrance items and more.
“I fell in love with herbs,” said Golon, 64. “I found that I was growing more herbs than anything else.”
Her love of gardening was passed down from her father and grandmother, both Maine gardeners. She said she has always been “fascinated with the fact that you put something tiny (like a seed) in the ground and end up with a meal.”
Since 1988, Golon has been teaching others about herbs at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester. She also works with the Shakers to help them produce their line of herbal products.
“They were having some trouble with (making) some of their vinegars. They knew I worked with food and herbs,” said Golon, who now works as their garden manager and internship director.
In addition to her first customers, L.L. Bean and Bass, Golon sells her products in museums and botanical gardens on the East Coast. In 1996, Golon made a national debut on QVC, the cable television shopping network, where she sold 1,000 boxes of tea in less than 6 minutes.
“It just kind of bloomed,” said Golon, of her business.
But in the wake of a car accident that left her 16-year-old son seriously injured, Golon decided to run Common Folk Farm Herbs as solely a family affair in order to take care of him.
The business has since evolved from a corporation to a sole proprietorship, operating under the name Herb & Vine at Common Folk Farm. Golon is also a guest interpreter and herbalist at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia, and has been a master food preserver at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension since 2010.
In 2013, Golon began to develop a line of dry mustard mixes based on 18th-century recipes.
“At my age it’s really fun to look at my life and (decide) what I can give back. This is something I can share with the next generation, and people who have an interest in (herbs),” said Golon.
According to Golon, being an herbalist and a food preserver go hand in hand. On Saturday, April 18, she is scheduled to lead an “herbal seasonings” workshop at the UMaine Extension office in Falmouth from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., where participants can learn how to salt herbs, create herbal pastes and vinegars, and how to dehydrate vegetable and herb blends.
“It’s all food preservation,” she said, of her work.
Golon, who defines herself as a “historical herbalist,” said herbs are used for medicinal, cosmetic, and culinary purposes. Her favorite part of being an herbalist is sharing her knowledge of herbs with others.
It’s “a field that an individual can choose where they want to put their creativity and energy,” said Golon. “My love of herbs is rooted in the history of human use. In a broad scope I’ve been blessed to do all of those things that are connected with the herbal world.”