On the 7th of October 2016, 8th grade pupils of the school of Lupeni visited the training center in Locodeni. They started to learn about medicinal and aromatic plants already at the herb stand of Fruit Festival. The next step was their visit to Locodeni. In the first part of the program they listened to the introductory presentation about basic information on the proper collection, drying process and storage of medicinal plants and they got known the main herbs of our region. They already knew the most of those, some of them also their use. But the others were surprised by the novelty that some weeds might also have curative effects. Later on they organized a contest on herbs where the participants could test their knowledge about herbs and the bests had the opportunity to win a prize. In the processing atelier the pupils could see the equipment and machinery serving the dehydration, distillation and storage of herbs. In the herb garden they gained extra knowledge about herbs native to our region, they were interested especially in the less known species. At the end of the program the participants could warm up themselves by a hot tea made of 7 different medicinal plants, which proved to be very useful in the cold autumn weather.
Medicinal plants were one of the main topics on the 8th Fruitfest organized by the Civitas Foundation for Civil Society in Odorheiu Secuiesc between the 23rd and 25th of September. The first event of the fest was a conference held in the St. Stephan Room of the Town Hall: The role of medicinal plants in changing the way of life of communities. The audience had the opportunity -besides listening to matterful presentations- to try the products made of medicinal plants by different communities. Within the frame of the conference the previous results of the project have also been presented by Jére Csaba biologist.
At 4 p.m., on the first day of the festival we opened the Transylvanian Herb Garden stand, full of products made by the volunteer groups. Then we shortly presented the project and talked about wildcrafting, cultivating and processing possibilities of medicinal plants in Szeklerland. At our booth we offered fresh and dried medicinal plant bouquets and tea mixtures, herb salts in a wide variety, herb oils and vinegars, as well as cosmetics based on medicinal plants and scented pillows. The Transylvanian Herb Garden could easily gain the title: the most aromatic booth of the festival.
On the next two days of the festival out booth hosted many several events: the volunteers of the project presented and promoted medicinal plants and their use to both adults and children; through presenting many products they proved that the using possibilities of medicinal plants are indeed very wide. On Saturday morning Gáspár Hajnal taught a group of pupils from Lupeni how to color canvas with row plants. Later on they prepared bath-salt and packed it into the canvas colored on the spot. The contest of recognizing medicinal plants, organized twice, on Saturday and Sunday by Geréb Enikő Hajnal was also very popular. The target of the contest were the children, but the challenge to identify 10 medicinal plants proved to be very interesting also for their parents. The medicinal plants growing in Udvarhelyszék (one of the Szekler Seats located around Odorheiu Secuiesc), their wildcrafting and processing possibilities were presented by Mihály Erika on Saturday afternoon and by Karsai Kinga on Sunday morning, who also answered the questions of the interested audience.
During these three days the scented view of Transylvanian Herb Garden stand attracted a large number of visitors, while advertised that medicinal plants could be natural assets bringing a significant change into the life of our communities, improving the quality of life, contributing to the sustenance of our communities through assuring their living.
On the 9th of September 2016 there was an open day in the training center of Locodeni. The varied programs and the nice weather attracted a large number of visitors. The participants of the medicinal plant training organized within the frame of the project played an important role in the preparation and realization of the program.
The event started with a solemn opening ceremony where Mr. Kolumbán Gábor, president of the advisory board of Civitas Foundation emphasized its role played in maintaining the traditions of rural communities; he also drew the attention to the possibilities hidden in the medicinal plants and natural assets of Udvarhely Seat. Medicinal plants have an important role not only in protecting our health, but they mean a significant economical potential which must serve the welfare of the local communities. After the opening speech the participants could gain a practical insight into wildcrafting, cultivating and processing medicinal plants. One group presented the herbs, their use and curative effects at the presentation garden. Another group of women at the brook presented their products made of medicinal plants: herb salts, bath salts, creams, teas and syrups. The visitors could also try the preparation of some products. On another spot the visitors could get known the medicinal plants of Udvarhely Seat, including their gathering, storing, processing and usage. The first steps of lavender cultivation in our region were also presented to those interested; professional cultivators talked about their experience, possibilities offered by lavender and products made by them. On the next spot some processing methods were also presented to visitors: drying and distillation. During the shop-works the participants of the project tried to share their experience and contributed to a constructive exchange of views. During the whole event the children’s corner assured interesting medicinal plant related activities for the younger generations. The younger children had the possibility to draw, learn how to make a tea or to recognize medicinal plants.
The large number of visitors and the active participation at the work-shops proved that there is a significant inquiry towards medicinal plants from both, the experts and the public. At the same time we need to emphasize that our region disposes of significant possibilities and the proper use of these possibilities can be imagined only with the participation of local communities.
On the 29th of July 2016 ended the training in Cluj Napoca, organized within the frame of the project called „Transylvanian Herb Garden – social integration of disadvantaged people in rural areas through sustainable collection and processing of medicinal and aromatic plants”. The courses were followed by a total of 15 persons chosen in February 2016. The trainers, Dr. Vârban Dan, professor of the University of Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences, as well as Mr. Florian Simion, general manager of S.N. Plafar S.A. București congratulated the participants at the end of the 5-month-long training. The courses offered both basic and advanced knowledge about gathering, cultivation and processing of medicinal plants. This training aimed at preparing the participants for an income-generating activity in the domain of the medicinal plants.
On the 5-9th of July 2016 the representatives of participants in the project Transylvanian Herb Garden made a trip to Switzerland. During the field trip organized by the Swiss Biodynamical Association, rich in programs carried out in a punctual and practical way, the group of 6 representatives visited several institutions, companies, and farms and participated at different activities where they gathered lots of everlasting experiences.
The first venue of the trip was the anthroposophy center in Arlesheim, the Goethenaum established by Mr. Rudolf Steiner, where they gained an insight into the basic theory of the biodynamical agriculture and got known the practical side of the activity while visiting the herb garden and the processing workshop. The composting process was also presented to the participants, and then they learned about producing preparations in order to improve the compost’s quality.
One processing unit of Weleda (producing natural cosmetic products) is also located in Arlesheim, where the main steps of herb processing have been presented to our colleagues. The most important point of views while producing healing cosmetics: clearness, quality, accuracy and attention.
The visit of Klinika Ltd. from Arlesheim was also included in the program. In the institution using alternative healing methods based on the theory anthroposophy while setting the treatments there is considered the individual functioning of the whole human body and at the same time they pay attention to the actual state of mind of the patient. The healing process of each patient is followed by specialist who uses the curative power of teas, extracts and medicines made of medicinal plants through local production. The enthusiast team also won an insight into the producing process of medicines.
In Lengwil they visited the educational and physiotherapeutic center of the Ekkharthof Association, which was the closest to the interest of the group in terms of its activity and mission. The center offers activities for people with mental and other disabilities, part of which is the work related to cultivation and primary process of medicinal plants. The colleagues of the institution presented their everyday activity, among them the main steps of medicinal plants’ cultivation, gathering and drying. They talked in a good mood and with enthusiasm about their everyday work, both strength and weaknesses. It was a good experience to see their problem solving ability and feel the hope that everything serves the benefit of the people if turned submissively and lovely to both nature and human.
In Kesswil, at Ceres Heilmittel Ltd. they were received by a familiar face: Mr. Raffael Stucki presented to them step-by-step the processing process, from the fresh medicinal plant to the tinctures. The visit started in the herb garden in Ceres’ yard, where Mr. Raffael Stucki showed the role of the sample garden: they follow the development phases of plants and define – based on the active substances contained – the optimal time of gathering and processing of the given plant. The participants had the opportunity to experience the main characteristics of Switzerland: accuracy, attention and pursuit of high quality. They took a view at the new production line for packaging, but Mr. Stucki emphasized several times that it substitutes only one work phase, since Ceres mostly evaluates human work.
A further step of the field trip was in the Swiss Alps, at an altitude of 1200m, in Ernen, where the activity of Bergland Produkte was presented to visitors. The Bergland Produkte is a real model of cooperation: how can 3 families work together through 27 years, and a good example for everyone finding his place in different branches by cultivating and process of medicinal plants, vegetables or fruits, husbandry and sale or touristic services. These people talked honestly about the positive and negative sides of life and explained how they exchanged the problems into solutions and into targets to serve the interests of the community, the village.
Getting higher in the Alps, in Lötschental valley, at an altitude of 1400 m our team has visited the Haggs in Ferden. The couple is made of simple, well-learned and creative people, who shared with pleasure their experience gathered in the mountains regarding cultivation and process of medicinal plants. Mrs. Sabine Hagg taught the members of the team about processing of medicinal plants. She practically presented the preparation of marigold unguent, simple drying methods, preparation of herb vinegar and oils and the participants had the opportunity to try different dishes, teas and spice mixtures made with medicinal plants.
Consequently we can say that it is worth to deal with medicinal plants, but for the success we will need lot of submissive work, qualitative community commitment and cooperation to which the biodiversity of Transylvania offers us a perfect basis.
On the 28th of June, Mr. Raphael Stucki and Mr. Jean Michel Florin started their visit in Cluj County with meeting the participants of the training, and then together they visited the lavender garden of Simona Persecan. The trainers were impressed by the work done by Simona Persecan and her family, as well as by the blossoming lavender fields. At the same time the trainers advised the producer different methods, such as “weeding” the fields with the help of sheep.
Then the trainers gained an insight into the rich world of wild medicinal plants of Cluj County. On the trips made around Cluj Napoca the trainers were amazed by the wonderful view and the fact that there grow medicinal plants which cannot be found in Switzerland.
The next venue of the trip was the test fields of Simona Persecan where she cultivates dwarf everlast. In the region this is the first initiative, though the seedlings are just 5-10 cm high, they will most probably burst into flowers within a short time.
In the afternoon the team visited the vegetable fields of Jucan Maria from Apahida. Jucan Maria and her family are members of the Kis Szamos Rét Agricultural Cooperation from Apahida and are interested in cultivation of herbs and medicinal plants. The trainers appreciated that Mrs. Jucan prefers the ecological crop production and uses on the fields macerates and traditional preparations. Thank to the family of Mrs. Simona the guests could have tried the local products. Not only the trainers, but also the participants tasted with pleasure the tasty bites from traditional products.
At the end of the day Mr. Raphael Stucki talked about the importance of balance between nature, plants and human. The substance of his lesson originates from the ideology of the biodynamical agriculture and the anthroposophy, which is widely spread in Switzerland and Western Europe. The biodynamical agriculture, established by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, is based on the relation between nature and human and its introduction became necessary at the end of the 19th century, caused by qualitative decline appeared in traditional agriculture.
The 29th of June we started with a hiking trip on the hills of Răchiţele (Cluj County), where the Swiss trainers were amazed by the richness of the nature. Our team members knew well the region, but this time, in the spirit of the training, they used a new point of view and looked at the surrounding nature as a living organism. At the end of the day, thank to the lessons and practical activities held by Mr. Jean Michel Florin, the participants could experience how important role the plants (flora) play in the formation of the relief.
On the last day, 30th June, the participants had the opportunity to survey the distillation process at Transylvanian Lavender. As a practical activity on the farm the women participants prepared the lavender to be used for distillation, while the men inserted the distillation machine. Another activity was that the participants studied and made a drawing of a medicinal plant. Later on they talked about the main quality values of the chosen herb. Then the participants could listen to a lecture held by Mr. Jean Michel Florin about biodynamical cultivation and the formation of such a farm. Mr. Raphael Stucki talked about wildcrafting, as well as about working methods applied at Ceres Heilmittel Ltd. As a closing event of the day the trainers and the participants surveyed the process of lavender distillation. The scent and the beauty of the shiny lavender oil amazed everyone.
The training held by Swiss trainers for representatives of local communities participating in the project took place in Locodeni on the 26-27th of June. The two trainers are experts with considerable experience and knowledge. Jean-Michel Florin works for the Swiss Association for Biodynamical Agriculture and is the leader of the French Association for Biodynamical Agriculture, editor of the French periodical: Biodynamis and associate leader of Goetheanum’s agricultural department.
Raphael Stucki also works for the Swiss Association for Biodynamical Agriculture and is the leader of wild plant collection at Ceres Heilmittel AG Company in Switzerland.
During the two-day-training Raphael Stucki taught about points to be respected while wildcrafting in order to gather a good quality plant material to be used for preparing high quality products. He presented some medicinal plants used by Ceres Company as raw material for their products, as well as the steps they use to assure high quality end-products.
Jean-Michel Florin emphasized the importance of getting known the medicinal plants in their natural environment through engrossment in relations existing in the nature. He reviewed the principles of biodynamical agriculture, as well as some very simple methods to be applied within croft conditions. The latter were highly appreciated by participants. The practical activities organized by the two trainers aimed at getting know the medicinal plant and its environment, as well as understanding the importance of engrossment in nature. All these contribute to some properly wildcrafted, good quality medicinal plants as raw material for our products.
At the end of the course the trainers, the knowledge transmitted by them, as well as the spirit of the course were evaluated by the participants in a positive way. They all learned new information. The trainers stressed the enthusiasm and implication of the participants what could serve as a base of further efficient activities.
Opinion of the participants about the training:
“I was impressed by the accuracy and punctuality of the trainers and I felt that I still have to grow up to this beautiful nature.” (J. CS.)
“Now I understand why do we need to take notes about the newly acquired information on medicinal plants. The life connections turn out from the landscape. The presentation was very good, the theory and the practice interwove very well.” (SZ.K.J.)
“What I understood: quantity should not harm quality, since quality means future.” (T.Z.)
On the 25th of June two trainers participating in the project, Raphael Stucki and Jean-Michel Florin, have visited some spots and events in the neighborhood of Odorheiu Secuiesc in order to get known the natural characteristics of the neighborhood, the local groups participating in the project, as well as medicinal plant related initiatives. First of all they visited the yard of Mrs. Gáspár Hajnal from Zetea where they met some members of the local group. After having checked the products made by local people, such as dried medicinal plants, tinctures and syrups, they took stock of some medicinal plants growing around the village. Later they visited the local products’ market organized in Odorheiu Secuiesc once a month, where they got known the products of local manufacturers and craftsmen. The variety of the products presented on the market has faithfully reflected the ingeniousness of local people and characteristics of the neighborhood, both evaluated very positively by the Swiss visitors, after having tried and bought several products.
In the afternoon our guests participated at the First Lavender Fest from Ceheşti and visited the lavender fields planted by the Moldován-Szeredai couple, which is an outstarter initiative in our neighborhood. During the walk on the lavender fields and while drinking lavender syrup refreshment, the experts gave very useful advices to the owners regarding the cultivation and process of lavender.
The next spot was the herb garden of Mrs. Benedek Enikő pastor in Crăciunel. After having surveyed the medicinal plants in her garden and talked to group members, the members have shortly presented their local herb products such as: tinctures, soaps, creams/unguents.
Our guests from Switzerland were amazed by the view of the next spot hidden among hills and fruit trees, Chinuşu, where we visited the yard of Mrs. Mózes Enikő. Talking to group members, our guests had the opportunity to see and try some more curiosities, such as: cheese flavored with herbs, homemade yoghurt, gem and syrup.
As the last event of the day, the Swiss experts visited the training centre in Locodeni and have chosen spots in the neighborhood of the village that would be proper for practical activities.
Consequently, this one-day-program offered the possibility to our Swiss guests to gain an insight through direct experience about the possibilities given by our landscapes, the natural values to be found in our neighborhood, as well as about the ingeniousness of local people.
Pupils in the 5th grade (5A) of Tamási Áron Primary School, led by Barabás Hanga form master, are regularly visiting the Transylvanian Herb Garden. In May they won an insight into the project during the School Otherwise Program. Within the frame of a workshop they got known some medicinal plants growing in spring and they took a fancy to experience also wildcrafting.
On the 21st of June the pupils arrived to Locodeni ready for the experience: they formed groups and collected information and curiosities about ten wild and cultivated medicinal plants (such as: elderflower, mint, thyme, lavender, St. John’s wort, chicory, wild marjoram, lemon grass, sage, shepherd’s purse). Then, under a large tree in the garden they presented the newly acquired knowledge to the fellow pupils and project leaders. Following the presentation they got familiar with some wild herbs, growing around the village and picked into their baskets mint, yarrow, thyme and St. John’s wort. .
When the pupils returned to the village, the medicinal plants were spread in the drier in order to use them as tea or for other preparations.
After the successful wildcrafting trip they visited the herb garden where they have seen several cultivated herbs: sage planted in the form of a spiral, sorts of mint and thyme, lemon grass, wild marjoram, but there are other plants such as basil, squash, marigold, sweet-potatoes or milk thistle. They refreshed and completed their knowledge gathered from the internet and literature. For instance it was new information that the houseleek was used in the traditional medicine to remedy earache.
After acquiring new knowledge and practical experience we can say that this visit was a real adventure for both pupils and adults.
On the 11-12th of June 2016, the team from Cluj formed during the training called „Social integration of disadvanteged people in rural areas through sustainable collection and processing of medicinal and aromatic plants” attended the Baroque Festivities organized in Bonţida. This event was the first challenge of the team which prepared a wide variety of products. The plants originated from the gardens of the participants, who offered for sale over 25 different sorts of medicinal and aromatic plants (dried or set), all full of natural health! The wooden boxes for sets were offered by LIGNEUS Construct and Craft Zone, the cups were wrapped at Association for Marketing of Local Products – AMPLU, but the design of the information sheets was made by Association of Innovation, Marketing and Business Centre – CLIMB.