2018 MHA THIRTY-FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN REVIEW
For the first time ever, I can truly say we had a very “spirited” conference. Ok, bad joke, I know! It certainly was fun though, celebrating this year with hops as our herb of the year. Upon entering the Eagle Eye Conference Center, guests were given a lovely herbal gift bag filled with items donated by MHA board members, including a fragrant “sleep” pillow made by several of our board members who last year picked and dried the hops themselves for this special gift. The bag also included a lovely mini-recipe book tribute to MHA founder Jamie Hove, compiled and donated by Shoreline Herbarist. I can’t wait to try out the Cinnamon Basil, Chicken and Nut Cheese Spread, which I can remember Jamie preparing for many summer potlucks. Other gift bag treats included Ginger Beer Hard Candy, a Bavarian Seasoning Blend, chocolate mints, seeds, donated by Renee’s Garden Seed Company, and so much more. A huge thank you goes out to the board members who put these lovely gift bags together each year for our guests.
As guests entered the conference room, they found a magical room full of linen-covered round tables with centerpieces of beautiful baskets filled with herbs grown by MSU students. The air was fragrant with herbs from vendors offering a huge variety of both common and unique herbs and scented geraniums. Other vendors offered a spectacular array of garden gifts including jewelry, soaps, teas, oils, and much more. The educational exhibits, silent auction, and used book sale all had guests happily sharing with each other about how they were going to return home with new ideas for their gardens. Congratulations goes out to Shoreline Herbarist who won the People’s Choice Award for best Educational Display.
After a warm welcome from President Jeanne Hawkins, guests were treated to the first program presented by Dr. Norm Lownds on “Aromatic Herbs for Brewing Beer.” Norm gave us some great information on the history of beer brewing and how herbs were, and still are, incorporated into the process. After his presentation, Norm shared samples of 7 different craft beers made right here in Michigan. I never thought I would be inviting our conference guests to “belly up to the bar,” but we all had great fun sampling and learning about the diverse flavors of this very poplar craft beverage.
Our second program of the morning was presented by Annie Magdowski, our own Journal food writer. Annie took us on a tour of restaurants who have added craft beers to
their menus in her travelogue-style program “Hopping Around Locally: What Chefs are Creating with Craft Beer.” We all got some great ideas of places to visit as we travel around Michigan this summer, and of what to ask for on the menu. Annie also shared some delicious homemade beer cheese crackers and beer cheese spread while we were enjoying her program.
Our final morning program was presented by keynoter Susanna Reppert-Brill who owns a wonderful herb shop in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, called “The Rosemary House,” which was founded and opened 50 years ago this summer by her mother, the late Bertha Reppert. Susanna’s presentation was about “Growing Medicinal Herbs.” Pens were flying as she shared growing ideas for and information on many plants that most of our members were not necessarily familiar with.
Susanna’s presentation was followed by a wonderful luncheon. The staff at Eagle Eye once again did a superb job of presenting a beautiful and very flavorful meal. After lunch guests could visit, shop, or enjoy the wonderful educational displays provided by many of our local herb group members.
Our afternoon began with a favorite speaker who was back for his third visit, Scott Stokes, from Southern Exposure Herb Farm in Battle Creek. Scott’s program, “Decorating with Hops,” gave us lots of ideas on how to use this vining herb in a variety of different craft projects. Scott is known for taking something that we may consider “trash” and turning it into a beautiful creation that we can be proud to have in our home or garden.
For the second afternoon program we welcomed back Susanna Reppert-Brill for her follow- up program, “Making Herbal Medicines.” We learned how to make herb-infused tinctures, syrups, vinegars, teas, and so much more. We all left with a much broader view of the many cultivated and wild herbs easily available around us, and how they can be used to improve our health.
At the end of the day guests picked up their silent auction winnings and headed out the door, arms filled with new herbs to try and lots of items from our wonderful vendors. It takes many months and many hands to put on the annual conference, and the board members are so appreciative of the emails, calls and letters we have received from so many of you who enjoyed this year’s event. Watch for details in the winter Journal for information about next year’s conference when we celebrate “anise hyssop” as the 2019 Herb of the Year.