Hillary Banachowski and Keir Knoll operate Sacred Roots Herbal Sanctuary in Shepherdstown (1799 Persimmon Lane). Banachowski is a community herbalist, grower, medicine maker, forager, and teacher, for whom herbalism, organic gardening, and permaculture are a way of life. She teaches classes on all aspects of herbal wisdom and organic vegetable gardening, and facilitates nature-based retreats.
Knoll is an electrical engineer and musician who utilizes his skill set to design sustainable alternatives to the status quo—combined with a passion for supporting and promoting local food, local farms, and local economies.
Together the couple works hard to cultivate and provide vibrant, healing herbs, without the use of herbicides or pesticides—going so far as to grow “at-risk” medicinal herbs that are in danger of disappearing due to over harvesting—on their 34-acre, solar-powered, off-grid sanctuary.
The Sanctuary offers culinary/medicinal herbs (dried and fresh herbs and herb seedlings), herbal/garden-based classes, educational woodland trails for at-risk medicinal plants, medicinal mushrooms, and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch.
The couple also offers events that enable and inspire locals and visitors alike to reclaim the power to heal themselves and their surrounding communities.
2017 marks their 2nd–Annual Shenandoah Valley Herbal Gathering at the Sanctuary’s Shepherdstown location. Set for June 10-11, this year’s event has expanded to two days. Last year’s inaugural day-long event saw 80 attendees enjoy a variety of options that included herbal classes, botanical vendors, and live music. This year looks to be even bigger.
“Folks can come for one or two days, and even camp on the land if they want,” said Banachowski. “We’re providing scheduled herbal classes for two days—twenty-four classes to choose from—as well as the kids’ classes, music, and lots of plant-based vendors.”
The primary mission of the event mirrors the overall vision Banachowski and Knoll have built into the Sanctuary. “We want to empower people,” she added. “A lot of what we do here, in addition to growing and selling herbs, is education. We teach a lot of herbal classes and gardening-based classes. We want to empower people to grow things and make herbal medicines themselves. There’s a resurgence of people really wanting to take back the power of their own health—which is nothing new—it’s been happening since people had the ability to do it. With health insurance the way it is today, you can either grow the plants/herbs yourself, or, with a good ID book or guide, go find a lot of medicine out there, almost entirely for free.”
Stewardship is also a core value at the Sanctuary. “We don’t use herbicides or pesticides, and we also plant a lot of pollinator plants, including insect-friendly plants,” noted Banachowski. “And we give back to the land as much as possible. There’s not a lot you have to buy. Mother Nature provides.”
Ultimately, Banachowski and Knoll want people to walk away from their experience at the Sanctuary feeling not only healed by the land, but empowered to grow their own food or medicine and cultivate their own resilience.
For more information, call 301-452-2075, and find SACRED ROOTS HERBAL SANCTUARY on Facebook.By Jillian Williams