It was the Sweet Annie that did it.
Netherlands native Brenda Ginther immigrated to the United States as a teenager, attended Lansing Public Schools, and earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Chemistry from MSU. She became a teacher in Lansing, with gardening and dried floral arrangements as hobbies, until she smelled a bunch of dried Sweet Annie on an antiquing trip in St. Johns.
She was, she says, “hooked on the scent.”
In 1986 Ginther and her husband Ron built a greenhouse and a barn in Mason for a budding floral business, and in 1987 that business became Wooden Shoe Herb Farm, which incorporated both herb plants and herbal products. “At the time,” says Ginther, “I was doing a lot of dried floral arranging- which I still do- and it was just natural to segue into herbs.”
By the time we see Ginther at the East Lansing Farmers Market, she’s worked for months to prepare. “I start preparing in the winter by ordering seeds, starting my plants in the greenhouse. I also make a lot of my body products and garden ornaments in the winter for my shop.”
Depending on the time of the season, her stall at the Farmers Market offers live herb plants, dried herbs, soaps, lotions, candles, herbal seasonings such as Herbs de Provence, catnip, herb teas, lavender bunches, herb cookies and jams, fresh-cut herbs, herb vinegars and herb salts. New this year are topiaries of lavender, myrtle and rosemary.
A day at the Market (and East Lansing is only part of Ginther’s week in market season) “requires organization.” Ginther explains that she “starts the day before by selecting the plants for market and labelling them. Then I select the dry goods- one bin for body products and one bin for the dried culinary herbs. That is then followed by picking the fresh herbal bouquets, and fresh herb bunches.
"I usually make an herbal baked treat to sell such as lavender sugar cookies. If you wish to make these yourself just use your favorite sugar cookie recipe and add a tablespoon of dried lavender buds. The cookies are great!”
Asked whether all the hard work is worth it, Ginther says “I love markets- not only do I love selling my products and having people appreciate them- but seeing and talking to people is fun. The downside is of course the weather. Being outside you are at its mercy.”
Click here for more information about Wooden Shoe Herb Farm.
The East Lansing Farmer's Market will be open on Sunday in Valley Court Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Editor's note: this article was originally published in June, 2015 and has been updated to include information about the 2017 Market season.