The Story of Long Creek Herb Farm

There were enough folks who said, "Gee Jim, we didn't know you had a business!" after the last posting, that I decided to put the information here. (It points out the fact that all of those postings I do along the right side of my blog, about my books, recipes page and products are being over-looked by most folks, too). So, here we go - what I do for a living, why I have this blog and how it all relates to my gardening, my travels and the plants I collect, photograph and post. You asked, so here it is. :-)

I began my business, Long Creek Herbs, in 1987. The name is a combination of names: my name is Long, I live on the Long Creek arm of Table Rock Lake, and I grow herbs. I began my business unintentionally. I had been hosting herb and garden clubs for a couple of years for tours in my garden. At the end of the tour, people would often comment, "Jim, this has been wonderful, we've enjoyed the tour (and sometimes refreshments), but we'd like to buy something to take home." I didn't have a clue what they were wanting to buy.

At that time I was an out of work landscape architect. I'd had a back injury while working on a garden project for the state of Arkansas, leaving me unable to even sit at my drawing table. Then several important things happened ('85 & '86), that changed my direction in life. I had to lay on my back, staring at the ceiling, trying to decide what to do with my life; without med. insurance and a back injury that left me walking with a walker for a few months, the options were slim.

To be occupied in bed, I entered a lot of contests, those kind where you send in postcards. I won a trip for 2 to Colorado, skiiing! Josh and I took the trip, but stopped at his sister, Suzies, where she insisted I "take a tour" of her brand new MacIntosh computer. Nope, I wasn't interested, I wanted a Selectric typewriter and intended to begin a new networking newsletter on herbs, for profit. Suzy (who's a published mystery writer) persisted and I took the 5 minute guided tour. Light bulbs went off, I was hooked. When we came home, I cashed in a small life insurance policy and bought my first Macintosh computer that year, 1987.

I began publishing The Ozarks Herbalist newsletter and soon had a lot of subscribers, there wasn't much being written back then about herbs, and no publications devoted to it exclusively. Through that I met some influential and wonderful people who contributed articles and suggestions. About that time, a plant nursery friend suggested I go to the International Herb Growers & Marketers conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. I had no money to travel and owned an ancient and contrary 1976 Gremlin car that I'd scraped up $500 and bought, years before. But the friend persisted in saying I needed to go to this conference. Josh offered me his credit card and connections to people he knew in Indianapolis where I could stay.

To the conference I went, with just enough money to get there and hopefully back. I'd even had to borrow money for the conference fees, as I recall. But when I walked into the conference trade show, light bulbs again went off in my brain. Suddenly I saw what the groups had been telling me after their tours. I got it, finally. What they were wanting to buy, were things from my garden, herbal items that would help them remember their visit, products that captured the flavors and fragrances of the refreshments they'd experienced.

On the drive home, I mentally built a gift shop, the building you see here. In a few months I scraped together $500 to pay a carpenter to help me, using recycled lumber I had. The following year a friend did the electrical wiring and eventually the Herb Shop was born. Two years later I added an attached building and the bell tower, the building being my packaging and shipping room (which I outgrew in 2 seasons).

The publisher of The Herb Companion magazine invited me to take over Tom DeBaggio's Down to Earth column at the beginning of 1992 (something I am honored and humbled by to this day). The publishers at Workman Press, along with my friend, Crescent Dragonwagon, invited me to drive fresh-cut herbs to Washington, D.C. for an Inaugural Brunch Bill & Hillary Clinton. The same year, The Ozarks Mountaineer magazine offered me a regular column, along with syndicating my Ozarks Gardening newspaper columns running in 2 states.

During these years I had been publishing The Ozarks Herbalist newsletter, and concocting new formulas and recipes. I'd enlarged and improved the herb and vegetable gardens and was having more and more visitors. After 7 years, I ceased publishing my newsletter. I not only joined the International Herb Growers, which was a large organization back then, but wound up on the board of directors, which is when I was asked to develop the Herb of the Year project (something that is still on-going, chaired by my friend, Chuck Voigt at the Univ. of IL; check my blog for this year's herb - dill). That project furnishes information and recipes/uses to many organizations and businesses for a designated herb each year.

When I ceased publishing The Ozarks Herbalist, I turned my attention to writing my "Great Little Herb Books." I found a method whereby my lectures to groups, flower & garden shows, etc., could be turned into marketable books, using the same time and resources I'd spent putting out an issue of the newsletter. That method continues and I have 28 books to my name, most of them published by Long Creek Herbs (and some out of print). Three of them are through Storey Books, a division of Workman Press. Those 3 books gave me entrance to a wide variety of television appearances, not just local media around the country, but several HGTV and Discovery programs. It also produced a flurry of magazine articles focusing on the garden and I've been featured in most every national magazine, for which I am grateful.

During those years I developed my own formulas for dream pillows and writing 3 books on the subject, and those continue to be successful for me and fun for our customers (read my Dream Pillows blog for stories of how Dream Pillows have helped people). And, having developed athlete's foot and cracking heel, I concocted a formula that has become my Herbal Nail Fungus Soak, which we sell nationwide and abroad through pharmacies, whole foods stores, chiropractors, podiatrists and even a few doctors.

At the base of my business are these principles: 1 - Our work has to be enjoyable. Why spend your life doing something you don't like? 2 - We are dedicated to developing an appreciation for herbs, both culinary and medicinal and (3) We offer great customer service, believing it's important to treat others as we would like to be treated.

We have animals (goats, chickens, guineas, a dog, Molly, a cat, Squeak) we are dedicated to Slow Food, good food, locally grown. We've been privileged to have had amazingly talented, wonderfully interesting visitors; we've hosted international students and interns, nearly all of whom have been as interested in creative food as we are. The garden is, after all, food, and hosting great chefs and developing recipes for the 300-400 herbs we grow, is just icing on the cake. (No, we're not a restaurant, no matter what Gourmet magazine claimed one time!)

So, there you have it, the short (yes really) version of our evolution. Not included is the story of how we found this place, of the wonderful woman, Anne, who left it to us, and a lot of other important people and stories, too). Thanks for asking and caring enough to read it. Happy gardening!


Sharon Lovejoy said...

So my dear Jim, I think we met in Indiana if that was the IHGMA meeting when we went to Purdue to cruise the fields??? Am I right?

You need to show more pictures of your garden and your rustic willow work, and all your products and books. I think then that your loving readers would get the drift of just what a treasure you are.

Now, it is back to the garden for me. I'm not bragging, but I'm still picking basil and tomatoes. OUCH!

Love to you and Josh,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

lemonverbenalady said...

Love the opening cartoon, Jim! Thanks for bringing us over to the right side (not the dark) of your blog! Been reading your columns forever. It is the first thing I do when I get my Herb Companion (not Herb Quarterly anymore). Been a fan for a long time. Still love the chocolate cake with oregano!

comfrey cottages said...

met you last year at the university of illinois herb day event jim. hope you will be there as a vendor again. would love to see you as a speaker there sometime:) thank you so much for sharing your story. i followed at your other blog site and saw to switch over here. i love your nail soak. works wonderful:) big herbal and honey hugs to you and josh:)

Anonymous said...

Definitely more pictures of your garden, please! Now I understand why your garden looks so inviting. You are right too about most people reading the blog and not really exploring the sidebar, I'm guilty of that. chrisq

Jim Long said...

Thank you for all of your kind comments. I'm always a bit shy of being so "commercial" in my postings and I'm glad this one was well received.

Anonymous - I'd love to be a speaker again at the Univ. of IL's event. Suggest it to Chuck Voigt, who organized it: cevoigt@uiuc.edu


comfrey cottages said...

i will jim! i will suggest that! are you coming as a vendor this year? (leslie from comfrey cottages)

1moreslogger said...

One reason some of your readers did not see your sidebar content is that they may only be seeing and reading the feed. I followed a number of blogs on BlogSpot and a bit back I noticed in my Gmail toolbar a reference to reader. It automatically set up to and help me read the blogs I follow. What is interesting. with Google Reader at least, is I only get the blog post itself not the side bar and links etc. So some portion of your public is missing part of what you have. At least that is how it seems to me.

I am not a gardener or herbalist but I do love great writing on topics where there is a lot to learn. You are a wonderful writer who happens to be a Herbal gardener imho... Thank you ... I am going to try to change my status soon... how does "Customer" sound... Thank You for your efforts and sharing ... Paul Hartley - Florham Park NJ

Pickles said...

Hi Jim! Thanks for posting your information on my site. Very cool that 2010 is the year of dill. : )
I really enjoyed reading your back story because it's obvious you've got so much passion! Let's keep in touch, herbs is a topic that I'd be wanting to report on and you just might be the perfect to person to interview.
All the best, Jennifer www.thepickleclub.com