NEW GLOUCESTER – Early accounts from Sabbathday Lake and Alfred indicate that the Shakers were managing vegetable, herb and seed gardens as early as the 1780s.

Those first gardens likely were geared toward meeting the needs of the growing Shaker communities. By the 1790s, the Shakers were among the first in the country to organize a commercial seed and herb industry.

By the early 1800s the Shakers in West Gloucester had a terraced garden on the hillside west of the road and buildings that looked lively and thrifty where they raised herbs and vegetables for sale. These are the same gardens that the 10 interns are renewing this summer.

The Maine Shakers complemented the garden seed industry with the sale of herbs, roots and barks. The Shakers in Maine based their medicinal herb gardens and herb industry upon the theories which Samuel Thomson presented in his book, “The Thomsonian Meteria Medica.”

Today the herb industry at Sabbathday Lake thrives. A selection of 25 culinary herbs and 14 herbal teas, along with rosewater, are regularly prepared and are available through the Shaker Store, the Shaker Museum Reception Center and mail-order catalog. The herbs are shipped throughout the United States and even internationally.


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