This story begins 15 years ago, when a family from Śląsk (Silesia, a province of Poland) came to Kaszuby (Kashubia). It was supposed to be an ordinary, family holiday. But when they saw the land of a thousand lakes at its finest, they fell in love and decided to stay forever. Today, their lives revolve mainly around herbs, which they used to prepare, among others, different kinds of tea, potions, honey, and syrups.
Kaszubskie Zioła (Kashubian Herbs) operate as agricultural retail traders. This means that most of the ingredients used in production of their concoctions come from their own land. The farm is located in the village of Łąkie, near the town of Bytów, in an area that is part of Natura 2000 network. The farm comprises 5 hectares of forest and 10 hectares of natural meadows.
“We want to make people healthy”
The mission of Kaszubskie Zioła is to make people healthy at an affordable price. The owner, Bożena Ogar-Ekiert, says that the idea for the company itself came from health issues, such as food allergies. Herbs are powerful, when used right, and it’s good to use them preventively, when there is no need for pharmaceuticals yet. Unfortunately, like all hand-made and hand-picked wares, herbs are pricey and therefore not universally available.
“Everything we sell is hand-picked and manually processed. This requires tremendous amounts of work, this is why our herbal tea will be more expensive from a regular, herbal tea bag’. The difference is in the quality of our product. We vouch for their contents. This cannot always be said about the supermarket herbs,” says Bożena Ogar-Ekiert, owner of Kaszubskie Zioła.
What you won’t get at Kaszubskie Zioła is overcharging for goods. Bożena Ogar-Ekiert also shares her knowledge for free. You don’t have to invest your entire life’s savings to get yourself some love. Just plant some herbs in your garden or on your balcony and learn about which herbs to pick.
„You don’t need much. Even a small balcony garden will suffice. You can plant cress or chive. It’s a small step that will bring you closer to good health. I have to stress that picking or growing herbs also gives a lot of satisfaction. Together with my grandchildren, we pick flowers that we later turn into tea, or make lavender cookies. You should encourage positive health habits in your children from the early age,” says Bożena Ogar-Ekiert.
How to transform your entire life? From puppeteer to herbalist
Bożena is an actress and puppeteer by profession. However, herbs were present in her life since the early childhood, a passion shared with her by her grandmother, who used to prepare teas, liqueurs, and preserves for their entire family. When she was a kid, Bożena used to watch her grandmother at work. Back then, she probably didn’t realise that, in the future, herbs would become not only her passion, but main source of income. This subconscious plan started coming to life 15 years ago, when she visited Kaszuby for a family holiday. She had just turned 40, and she’s living proof that any moment is perfect for changing your life.
“The thought of moving to a greener area had been with use since forever. We’d never thought that we would venture so far away from home, as we were rather considering something in the south of Poland. Beskid Mountains, perhaps. We left our family in Gliwice, and we miss them dearly. This is the only drawback. Everything else is just pure joy. Kaszuby is our little paradise on Earth,” says Bożena Ogar-Ekiert.
They found a suitable plot of land, bought 15 hectares, built a house, and started planting herbs. Bożena used to give herbs as gifts for her friends and neighbours, so naturally more and more people started encouraging her to open up her own business. This is how Kaszubskie Zioła was founded in 2013. In 2019, Bożena Ogar-Ekiert was joined by her daughter, Grażyna Ekiert, who believed in her mother’s business to the degree that she decided to quit her corporate job. Today, she helps with the corps and with marketing. She is the driving force behind the online store as well as the Facebook page and Instagram account.
Hard work and love
Kaszubskie Zioła is an inclusive business. There is a shop on its premises, where you can have a chat with the owner while shopping. People often think that interacting with nature is a nice and easy job. The job is, of course, fun. But it sure isn’t easy.
“I used to do everything by myself, helped by the men in our family. The work involves weeding, hand sowing, cultivating, harvesting, drying… These days, it looks pretty much the same, but we have all grown to understand how important development is. We invested in equipment, adapted the facilities, and installed a professional drying room with regulated temperature. Herbs are very fragile so storing them in a controlled environment helps in preserving what’s best in them. And although we still do pretty much everything by ourselves, we are constantly thinking of new ways to develop the business,” says Bożena Ogar-Ekiert.
The second, equally important pillar of Kaszubskie Zioła are the workshops that Bożena conducts. She treats them as a kind of mission, too. They take place both on the farm, and outside. These workshops are very popular. Being mindful of your health is important not only for adult women, but more often men, teenagers, and even children.
“When we organised a workshop on pickling, we were sold out. We had to divide into three groups for everyone to benefit. Younger and younger people taking care of their health is a trend that I have noticed. My workshops are not only for adults, but also for elementary school students. I even had a group of kindergarten children,” says Bożena Ogar-Ekiert.
What can you get from Kaszubskie Zioła?
The stock depends on the season, so make sure to bookmark the website: www.kaszubskieziola.pl. Current offer includes herbal tea from a selection of herbs intended for women, royal tea for the immune system, honey with nettle, rose jam, an alcohol-free, wine-based, fortifying drink with parsley, apple vinegar, elderflower-linden & strawberry syrup, dandelion syrup with nettle, or red beet sour juice. These are but a few of products that are worth mentioning. You can get the entire offer via the website or e-mail.
Zakupów można dokonać za pośrednictwem sklepu internetowego www.kaszubskieziola.pl/sklep/, a także na miejscu — w lokalnym sklepiku. Niektóre produkty znajdziesz również w zaprzyjaźnionych sklepach ze zdrową żywnością.
(zakwas, often confused with sourdough; in Polish, this word means two different things).