Garden Lifestyle

Four Elements Organic Herbals: Growing Medicinal Herbs in Wisconsin

On a recent visit to Madison, Wisconsin, a group of herbal enthusiasts went to visit the medicinal herb gardens of HSA speaker, Jane Hawley Stevens, proprietress of Four Elements Organic Herbals.

Jane Hawley Steven's harvesting chamomile blossoms with a "chamomile rake". Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

On a recent visit to Madison, Wisconsin, for the annual HSA conference, a group of herbal enthusiasts went to visit the medicinal herb gardens of HSA speaker, Jane Hawley Stevens, proprietress of Four Elements Organic Herbals. Here are some photos of her prolific gardens located near the Baraboo Bluffs in Wisconsin and her apothecary shop, which is in North Freedom. Come on a virtual tour right now…

As described on the website:”Noted Herbalist, Author and Local Organic Farmer, Jane Hawley Stevens and her husband, David (who is Curator of the Madison Arboretum’s Longenecker horticultural gardens), have farmed 130 acres in an area considered one of the last great places by the Nature Conservancy. Certified organic since 1990, both wild and cultivated medicinal herbs are hand harvested at peak potency, then hand-processed to create a line of herbal products including teas, moisture creams, facial hydrosols, lip balms, soaps, herbal teas, body oils and tinctures.”

The farm is about an hour’s drive from Madison. Having thoroughly explored the Madison farmers’ market the day before and visited the marvelous cheese store Fromagination (not-to-be-missed, we shared an absolutely delightful potluck/picnic lunch in the classroom. Next, we headed out to the gardens and had a tour of Jane’s chakra garden, production field and drying shed. The name of her business, Four Elements Organic Herbals, has a focus on the contribution of the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Jane’s program for the conference was titled “Gardening by the Moon”, which is practiced at the farm.

The chakra garden has a series of beds, each representing one of the chakras with long beds running along each side of the center chakras. We spent a lot of time surrounding each bed and admiring and discussing the herbs grown in them. Poochie, the family dog, accompanied us and entertained us by nonchalantly laying right in the center of each chakra garden bed (she is one laidback dog). It is a lovely display garden with a large number of popular, as well as lesser known herbs, from culinary to medicinal, fragrant and ornamental, and we seriously oohed and aahed; plants grow quite big in Wisconsin.

From there, we traipsed through fields to view the impressive production fields, where there were rows upon rows of medicinal herbs from familiar sage, lavender and calendula to astragalus and arnica in bloom. There was a huge patch of blooming chamomile, which we stopped to photograph since it is an upcoming herb of the year. I got Jane to get her “chamomile rake” and harvest some flowers for us with it and then we went to the drying shed and saw the chamomile drying there along with calendula flowers and some wild herbal roots.

Jane uses all of these organically grown botanicals to create her line of products. We piled into our vehicles and drove about 10 minutes through the countryside to a tiny town called North Freedom, where the apothecary shop, Four Elements Organic Herbals is located. The shop is in an old bank building converted to house a storefront, an office, a health-department-approved kitchen, a processing room, a packaging and shipping area and a huge basement where palettes of products are stored in boxes along with large quantities of bottles, jars, herbs, tinctures and packing materials.

Of course we came away with all sorts of goodies from teas, balms, soaps, lotions, oils, tinctures and flower essences–and a feeling of well-being and contentment–from hanging out with inspiring and like-minded herbies. Jane’s line of herbal teas are her best sellers, and no wonder with names like “After Dinner Fennel Mint” and “Joy, Love & Passion”; you can find them in many stores across the nation. She does mail order most of her products at If you are headed to the Madison area, check out the website to see what events or classes might be happening at the farm or shop; and to sign up for her newsletter.

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