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Interview with Jennifer Gerrity, Executive Director of Operations at Mountain Rose Herbs
Mountain Rose Herbs has grown to a worldwide phenomenon since its establishment in 1987. And for good reason. If you’re at all interested in high-quality herbs then there’s a big chance that you’ve heard of the company.
I had the chance to visit the Mountain Rose Herbs store in Eugene, OR when I was visiting last September. The feeling when you walk into the store is as though you’re walking into an old-timey apothecary. The dark woods, minimal light pouring in through the small windows up high, even the packaging of their products looks rustic from another era.
The spokesperson at Mountain Rose Herbs whom I got to interview is the wonderful, intelligent and very kind Jennifer Gerrity. Jennifer is the Executive Director of Operations. Jennifer has a Bachelor’s degree in Plant Science from Rutgers University, where she specialized in plant propagation and agribusiness management.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with a bigger passion for plants than Jennifer. What a joy to get to pick her brain about plants, and to hear her describe how she has witnessed and been a part of Mountain Rose Herbs and seen the company grow over the 14 years she has been with the company.
MRH gives back which has become an important aspect of what they do: the Fair for Life Gardens program which Jennifer has been a large player in. In the podcast episode, Jennifer explains what the importance is of this program and how it helps farmers and plants in various countries.
“People that get turned on to working with plants in whatever capacity it ends up being changes their lives in a way because it brings so much inspiration and so many health-giving properties.” – Jennifer Gerrity, Chief Operational Officer at Mountain Rose Herbs
- Mountain Rose Herbs is a herb, health, and harmony company that works closely with farmers around the globe to source high-quality, organic herbs in regions that naturally support specific varieties
- The Fair for Life Gardens project is a fair trade exchange with farms in India that focus on improving working conditions, growing practices, and building relationships with farmers
- Jennifer’s current three favorite botanicals are Ashwangandha, American Ginseng, and Camellia Sinensis. Not sure what those are? Keep listening (or reading!) to find out.
- Global farming practices are making strides to help preserve scarce medicinal plants so that they can continue to be used in healing practices
Jennifer Gerrity is the Executive Director of Mountain Rose Herbs, located in Eugene, Oregon. Jennifer was born into the world surrounded by nature and plant life, and spent the majority of her youth researching and seeking out various plants in her free time. She continued this passion into her career path and received a bachelor’s degree in plant science from Rutger’s and specialized in plant propagation and agro-business management. She focused on tropical agriculture, bioremediation, and tissue culture. After her studies, she continued researching for both the university and for the EPA before claiming Eugene, Oregon as her forever home.
As the Executive Director of Mountain Rose Herbs, Jennifer oversees staff and production and takes a special interest in procurement of high-quality organic herbs, spices, and teas through local, national and international travel. She is deeply committed to farm development and creating special projects at Mountain Rose.
Mountain Rose Herbs is a herb, health, and harmony company that was founded in 1987 by Rosemary Gladstar, the grandmother of herbal medicine in the U.S. Mountain Rose has deep roots in the herbal industry and community in the U.S. As an importer, distributor, and manufacturer, they bring in the highest quality botanicals to their headquarters in Eugene, OR from all over the world. These botanicals pass through numerous levels of quality control tests from expert botanists and herbalists, which are then repackaged into retail sizes, and distributed from the website. Mountain Rose offers a huge selection of both raw and finished products for purchasing and has everything you need to create your own body care products.
Keeping a small business feel, while growing exponentially over the years, has been a focus of Mountain Rose Herbs. What once was a family owned warehouse out in rural Pleasant Hill transitioned to a larger production in the heart of Eugene. Mountain Rose Herbs has maintained a close relationship with their customers, farmers, and their products, which has helped sustain the small-business-like feel. They’ve also focused their efforts on preserving the original principles and standards. But Jennifer stated that the root of their success has been an outcome of their very tight-knit staff. Many of the employees have been there since day one, many of which have moved from working in the warehouse to upper-level management. They are truly experts in this field and have dedicated their energy to producing incredibly high-quality products.
Mountain Rose Herbs created relationships the farmers a long time ago, and have been contracting with the same people for decades. They don’t buy from unknown sources out on the marketplace, they partner with farmers to ensure that both parties have mutual success. Cultivation can be a lengthy process, sometimes it takes a full year between the time the purchase order is created and the end product is received. This is why working with the same farmers year after year is beneficial for both parties – the farmers have long-term projects and growing orders, while Mountain Rose Herbs receives herbs that are up to their high-quality standards. Quality starts from the beginning, which is why they provide their farmers with quality standards from day one. The herbs undergo both a pre-shipment and post-shipment examination that include taste, smell, freshness, and microscopic tests, and then additional ones that test water content, sulfur content, yeast, mold, pathogens, and a variety of other things. All before purchase. Rest assured that these herbs are of incredibly high-quality.
In the rare case that the herbs are not up to standard, Mountain Rose Herbs continues working with the farmers to either improve the products or helps them find other sources to purchase the herbs. Because the crop is often the farmer’s entire yield for the year, Mountain Rose Herbs does what they can to help find a new home for the herbs if they can’t meet terms and specifications. They work with farmers from around the globe, from local to international farms, and care deeply for the success and well-being of their farmers.
Fair for Life Gardens is a project Jennifer has been working on for seven years now. This project works collaboratively with farms in southern India to improve the working conditions, equal pay, sustainability, products, materials, and farming equipment, overall focusing on raising the standards of growing and employment practices. This project has provided an opportunity to implement fair trade, which is based on the premium per kilo Mountain Rose Herbs pays to help make lasting improvements. The extra money helps provide funds for rain catchments, composting bins, farming education, rebuilding homes in agricultural communities, upgrading farming equipment, and bolstering communities. They’ve created long-term, supportive relationships with their farmers, and in exchange, the farmers are experiencing positive impacts in their businesses and communities. A huge win-win for everyone.
We asked Jennifer her three current favorite botanicals, and she didn’t disappoint. Ashwagandha was her first choice, because of the nutrient and adaptogenic properties is provides for the body, but she also discussed this plant on a global scale. The shifts she’s seen happen on farms that transition from wheat to Ashwagandha has provided farmers with a better return on their investments, and the success she’s witnessed is uplifting. Her second choice was American Ginseng because of the healing properties associated with the plant. And her third choice was Camellia sinensis, which is basically the “tea plant”. All teas come from this plant, but the variety in the tea depends on the time of harvest, post-harvesting handling techniques, and the region it’s grown.
“People that get turned into working with plants in whatever capacity it ends up being changes their lives in a way because it brings so much inspiration and so many health-giving properties.”
Plants can have so much to offer, scientifically and energetically. The website is an array of all facets of the botanical world. If you’re not sure where to start, she recommends that you take a look at all the raw products, which are great for cooking, making tea, creating body products, and she suggests to just get your hands working with the herbs is a great place to start.
As a final note, Jennifer discussed her passion for organic farming in the U.S., and the lack of deep history growing medicinal plants here compared to other countries in the world. She wants to help spread and encourage farmers to connect with seed growers to increase yields of herbs that are scarce on the market to ensure we don’t lose those plants altogether. She’s optimistic in that she’s seen a little bit of growth and movement every year here in the U.S. regarding expanding plant variety but is on the forefront of encouraging the industry to take positive risks and keep moving forward.