LEWISTON — The Center for Wisdom’s Women and the Lots to Gardens program of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center are partnering to bring Deb Soule to Lewiston on Friday, April 17.

She will offer two programs to support an expanded herb garden at the women’s center, bring attention to Lots to Gardens projects, while also encouraging the growing of healing herbs in urban settings.

Soule practices as an herbalist, educator and biodynamic gardener and is the author of “How To Move Like a Gardener: Planting and Preparing Medicines from Plants” (2013) and “A Woman’s Book of Herbs” (1998). In 1985 she founded the herbal apothecary Avena Botanicals where she and her staff produce by hand over 200 herbal remedies. Soule has been using biodynamic practices on her farm since 1998 and in 2011 Avena became the first farm in Maine to be Demeter-certified.

Avena’s three-acre gardens serve as a healing space for the community, a habitat for pollinators and a living classroom for students and is a member of United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary. The farm also produces over 1,800 pounds of medicinal herbs for Avena’s apothecary.

From 2:30 to 4 p.m. Soule will be at the Nutrition Center for a pre-event workshop titled Growing and Using Medicinal Herbs.

St. Mary’s Nutrition Center promotes community health through organizing, advocacy and education. It is home to a food pantry, cooking and nutrition education programs, job training for teens, year-round farmers’ markets, and the Lots to Gardens program. The latter program uses 12 urban community gardens in downtown Lewiston to create access to local food, empower youth and build community.

Lots to Gardens is advising and assisting with the gardening at the women’s center. In addition to herbs, the expanded gardens will include lots of calendula, thought to be a healing medicinal plant, especially for women who have been abused. As part of a global grass-roots Grow a Row of Calendula project promoted by Avena Botanicals, the public will be encouraged to also cultivate calendula.

Each participant in the workshop will be invited to take home calendula seeds to plant in solidarity with the women’s center. Harvested flowers, both those grown at the women’s center and any donated ones, will be processed into a healing salve to sell. Fresh bouquets will also be given to the local Safe Voices Shelter and will be sold at the summer Farmers Markets.

At 5 p.m., Soule will be one of the speakers at the semiannual Wise and Strong Women Speak program at the Center for Wisdom’s Women. Two women will share stories from their lives and reflect on a topic of mutual interest.

Soule’s partner in conversation will be local herbalist Kate Boverman, who grows and creates medicines and healing foods at the Clark Mountain Community Land Trust in Greene. She is also a member of Radherb, a network of herbalists in the U.S. who are working to incorporate health justice principles into herbalism. The title of their talk will be “The Soul of Gardening.”

The Center for Wisdom’s Women is a day drop-in center for women. Now in its fourth year, the Wise and Strong Women Speak evenings are designed to give voice to the often unspoken stories of women. Light snacks and beverages will be offered. FMI: 513-3922 www.wisdomswomen.org

Herbal products and books from Avena Botanicals will be available for sale at both venues. No reservations are needed for either event, which is free. Donations will be encouraged to support the gardening programs.

The Nutrition Center at Pine and Walnut streets and The Center for Wisdom’s Women between Pine and Ash streets are a block apart, just off of Bates Street. Parking at each site is limited, but is available a few blocks away in the Park Street garage.


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