ICHWB’s Affordable Apothecary Project

When I was in college they asked me to teach a workshop on working in low-income populations, because of my experience witht hat.  I work in those populations because I have lived in that population for most of my life and learned from a very early age how to be poor.  Although I will be the first to admit that country poor is different than city poor and it took me awhile to adjust my thinking to that.

When I taught that class I think I was still advocating for a sliding fee model and  I don’t recommend that these days.

First of all  people working on a sliding fee scale always run out of resources.  There are just too many people who aren’t doing well and when you try to take care of them, suddenly you aren’t doing very well either and you can’t help anyone.  That’s due to the gross income inequity that is a systemic problem in our society.  There’s no way around it.  When you have 30 clients come in during a week who legitimately can’t afford to pay according to your scale,  the two who can don’t balance that out.

There’s also the unfortunate fact that people will take advantage of you.  I found out just the other day that I’ve been giving preparations out to someone who makes more money than I do every year.

The biggest problem I see though,  is that when you give a person a handout, you are still creating a captive consumer.  That person must always get their product from you or from someone else.  I am absolutely not into that, because if I am not around or out of something people will end up paying through the nose for it from someone else.   

The first step for me to move away  from these problems was teaching classes, and giving out scholarships,  instead of doing traditional consults on a sliding-fee scale. No matter how trite it seems teaching someone to do something is better than giving  handouts.   Oddly enough people seem more into supporting something like that.  I’ve had a couple people buy spots for me to give to other people.

I try very hard to structure my classes in such a way that you don’t need to be  well-off to buy the ingredients to make preparations.  I  stick to base ingredients that can be purchased with SNAP funds.  If you follow my facebook page you will see posts where I show people how to make supplements  from food scraps you would normally throw away.

Still, one of the biggest problems I have in doing my work is that the herbal preparations are expensive and not everyone has room for a garden.  I want to work to fix this problem for our community. I am hoping that through brainstorming with other people, we have come up with a good idea that maybe some of you in other places might try, too.

The most pressing project ICHWB is going to be focusing on this year is our coop project. Members sat down at a meeting last month and hashed out the membership rules.   

The basic structure of of the project that everyone will make some sort of contribution towards materials we need to make preparations.  That could be:

  1. Growing herbal ingredients.
  2. Contributing raw materials for preparations.
  3. Contributing packaging materials.

Realistically until we really get off the ground, it might involve picking a couple ways to contribute. We have no idea what our needs will be until after we get firm numbers on the sign-ups.

Every member will be expected to attend scheduled harvesting and workdays and help according to their ability level.  We will end each of these with a potluck dinner because community building is cool, too.

At the end of the season, everyone will get a share of the products we produce and one share will be donated to the Herbalist’s Without Borders supplies.

We will be taking answering questions, taking, signups,  and distributing seeds to members at the Spring Open House, our March ICHWB meeting,and when we go help  establish an edible forest at Creekside park on April 4th.

I will keep records though and update you all on the success of the project at the end of the season.  Wish us luck!