Dawn Combs wanted a quaint farmstead in the middle of 100 acres of herb gardens, grazing livestock and buzzing bees. Carson Combs wanted to rehab an old home in Italian Village in the heart of Columbus. Their marital compromise landed them just outside of Marysville on a 3.5-acre farm with a population density somewhere in the middle of either extreme. It seems an odd location for a farm
“It all started with a lie. I told him, ‘I just want to try bees for a hobby,’” Dawn said.
It did not take long for those first few bees to develop into a small business. Dawn started selling her honey at a local farmers market and began making lip balm, skin cream and other products. The honey is harvested only once a year to maximize flavor and benefit to those with allergies. Carson handles most of the honey duties around his full-time job as a city planner in nearby Dublin.
Along with bees, Dawn has always loved working with herbs for their flavor, health benefits and medicinal properties. It was only natural, then, for her to blend herbs and honey, resulting in honey infused with lavender, rose petals, lemon/ginger/garlic, peppermint and other herbs.
About 40 types of herbs are harvested for commercial uses, and dozens more varieties are grown for display for tours and workshops held at the farm. Dawn works hard to educate her customers on how to use herbs on their own and make the most of her farmstead compromise.
“We’re trying to educate family herbalists with the knowledge and the herbs that they need,” Dawn said. “I do a lot of speaking engagements and workshops through the year to educate people about the herbs we use. And when people come here to our home just outside of Marysville on 3.5 acres, they are not intimidated. This is something they can relate to and see themselves doing.”
For the production of her plants, Dawn adheres to the principles of biodynamics that combine old herbal knowledge, folklore and science. Her methods are designed to get the most out of agricultural production while eliminating commercial fertilizers and pesticides to more closely work in concert with nature.
“If your soil is healthy, your plant is healthy, and healthy plants are less susceptible to pests and diseases,” Dawn said. “We do things a lot differently than the farmers around here, so people are always watching us to see what we’re doing.”
Dawn also practices companion planting techniques to control pests and weeds. For example, garlic attracts the aphids that plague roses, so planting the two beside each other keeps aphids off of the roses. The properties of nettles allow nearby tomatoes to stave off spoilage for a longer duration. Spearmint deters mice and mites, so that herb is planted in abundance around the beehives for healthy, pest-free colonies. Comfrey is planted around many crops because it falls over and makes an effective, natural mulch.
All of the farm’s herbs are harvested at their peak of phytochemical potency for maximum flavor and health benefit. The proper harvest time depends on the particular herb and the part of the plant that is being used. For roots, the best harvest time is in spring right before the plant emerges from the ground or in the fall just after it goes into dormancy. For the leaves of a plant, it is best to harvest just prior to flowering. The flowers should be picked just as they are opening.
“We are going for very high quality, and the work is meticulous,” she said.
Once the herbs are harvested, they are immediately incorporated into the various products from the farm. Their more than a dozen herb-infused honeys are loved from coast-to-coast, as the growing notoriety of the farm’s products has landed the couple in San Francisco to hand out samples and on the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Dawn also handcrafts skin creams, tinctures, bug repellant cream, first aid items and an extremely popular poison ivy relief kit.
And, while the Combs agreed to meet in the middle and live somewhere between city and rural, the quality of the products from the resulting Mockingbird Meadows Honey and Herb Farm is no compromise.
For more about the farm, visit www.mockingbirdmeadows.com.