meet the farmer
The Hodge family grows and forages to create healing medicine.
WRITTEN BY CHRISTINA NELLEMANN
PHOTOS COURTESY OF TINA HODGE (PRODUCT SHOTS BY ASA GILMORE)
Tina Hodge is more in touch with nature than most of us. She almost seems to share a special language with it.
“Both medicinal and edible plants are very friendly and want to help us,” Hodge says. “You don’t usually get that from pharmaceuticals.”
Through Eagle Peak Herbals, she produces and sells health care products for both humans and animals made from more than 100 sustainably grown and ethically wild-harvested herbs that flourish on the family-owned company’s property in the mountains above Surprise Valley, Calif.
Hodge was trained as an organic farm inspector, herbalist, and fiber artist. Some of her plant education has come from experienced Native American medicine people.
“I’m at a point now where the plants themselves teach me, which is really sweet of them,” she says.
In the early 1980s, Tina, her husband Bill, their two young daughters, various pets, a pony, and a small llama herd came to Modoc County from the California coast after finding out their seaside home was being subjected to dioxin-based herbicides from commercial redwood logging. They spent three years looking for a place with clean water and pure air, and where development would not be a factor in their lifetime. Located at 6,100 feet elevation, their land sits above remote Eagleville — about 15 miles from Cedarville and three hours north of Reno.
“We decided to look for land with federal wilderness as a watershed,” Hodge says. “So we bought 162 acres of private land within the South Warner Wilderness.”
The Hodges camped for 14 summers on the land in a tipi with an outdoor kitchen while they built their house, planted gardens, and home-schooled their children. The completed Hodge home still is off the grid.
Out of the 162 acres, about one acre is terraced to accommodate the main herb garden below the family’s underground ferro-cement home, which Bill built. Echinacea grows on another quarter of an acre, mint flourishes by a pond, and more than 30 wild medicinal herbs sprout around the property’s three creeks and 20 springs. All of the water originates in the South Warner Wilderness or on their land.
“We’re pretty spoiled,” Hodge says.
A surprising number of herbs do well in this extreme, frost-prone location above the Great Basin. Hodge says they only are able to enjoy a 70- to 80-day growing season from July to September, and that means they don’t grow varieties that need babying.
Eagle Peak Herbals cultivates wild, high-desert and mountain herbs such as Osha, a sacred Native American plant used for coughs and respiratory ailments; Lomatium dissectum, or desert parsley, used for its antiviral and antibacterial properties; elderberry for colds and flu; stinging nettle for food and to assist the kidneys, urinary tract, and allergies; marshmallow for sore throats and skin issues; skullcap for sleep and anxiety; echinacea for immune boosting and upper respiratory issues; and arnica for the external treatment of sprains, strains, and bruising.
Eagle Peak Herbals also specializes in endangered herbs from the Eastern U.S., including black cohosh, which traditionally is used as a hormone balancer and midwifery herb; sustainably grown goldenseal to aid infections; and mayapple for liver health.
Once the herbs are gathered, Tina and Bill take them fresh to their commercial kitchen in Surprise Valley to be extracted and preserved immediately to maintain their highest potency. For recipes that include ingredients not found on their land, the Hodge family buys from local, organic farms. The baby ginger for their Honey Rose Fire Cider comes from Custom Gardens in Silver Springs, Nevada’s first certified organic farm, and garlic for the same recipe comes from Lattin Farms in Fallon. Any fresh produce is purchased from the Great Basin Community Food Co-op’s DROPP program in Reno.
“We try to support local and then we sell our products back to the local community,” Hodge says. “It’s a big circle.”
The company’s principles spread into the Hodges’ growing techniques as well. Tina and Bill buy very little fertilizer, and they use beneficial blue-green algae from their pond and manure from their llama herd to create compost to amend their soil.
With an expanding customer base, the company recently acquired a property in Eagleville where the Hodges can grow their herbs in a warmer climate. In addition, they will continue to buy supplemental ingredients from local farmers.
“People are looking for quality, local, organic ingredients right now, and we’ve been really stubborn about where we source our herbs,” Hodge says. “We are going to buy the best; we want to make the best and not the cheapest.”
Christina Nellemann is a writer living in Washoe Valley, and once the winter’s snow has melted, she will be heading up to Eagle Peak Herbals to check out the gardens. Omnimmune got her through the winter cold season.
For details, visit www.Eaglepeakherbals.com
Where to buy
“Eagle Peak Herbals is such an awesome company,” says Jolene Cook, wellness manager at the Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno. “They have brought national trends here in the form of local dollars.”
Cook adds that Great Basin has a specific area of its wellness section dedicated to Eagle Peak Herbals’ tinctures. Customers can fill reusable glass stopper bottles with various herbal formulas. The best-selling tinctures include Sweet Sleep with skullcap; Omnimmune with echinacea; and Elderberry Glycerite for infants, children, and pets.
Great Basin Community Food Co-op
240 Court St., Reno • 775-324-6133 • www.Greatbasinfood.coop
Truckee Meadow Herbs
1170 S. Wells Ave., Reno • 775-786-8814 • www.Truckeemeadowherbs.com
New Moon Natural Foods
11357 Donner Pass Road, Truckee • 530-587-7426 • www.Newmoonnaturalfoods.com