Garden Classes At The Institute Of Sustainable Nutrition

Nigel Palmer and The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition ( will offer classes in the garden at Holcomb Farm, West Granby Ct. (next to the Work Shop). Classes will be hands on, open to all who are interested and include a question and answer segment. Principles covered are scalable to the farm or garden.


Program Outline: October 8, 2016, 10:00 – 12:00

An interactive discussion about the plant models we use to make agricultural decisions, the rhizosphere and measuring the quality of the produce we eat using the refractive index. We will demonstrate the use of the refractometer so bring something to measure. We will prepare a bed for planting using the material available. Sustainable amendments that you can make at home or on the farm will be introduced. Finally, a general discussion based on your questions will complete the program.


Program outline: November 5, 2016, 1:00 – 3:00

An interactive discussion about the soil’s exchange capacity needed mineral proportions and feeding the soil biology as well as the plant. We will conduct a soil test, discuss lab selection and then plant garlic for next years harvest. We will continue to introduce sustainable amendments that you can make at home or on the farm. Finally, a general discussion based on your questions will complete the program.

Cost $20 per class, RSVP 860-764-9070

Bring your curiosity, questions and a friend.

The Institute Of Sustainable Nutrition

Holcomb Farm

113 Simsbury Rd

West Granby, CT 06090


You Can Pay The Farmer Now Or The Doctor Later –Real Food Matters

Remembering Our Local Kitchen Medicine

This was an article we wrote for Natural Awakenings Magazine in the Spring:


There is so much change, color, flavor and medicine growing this time of year. From our local wild foods to the farms and gardens, we are rich in delicious medicine! We have gone from the time of scarcity, where our gardens and surrounding lands were just waking up from the winter, with the first dandelions and stinging nettle, to this time of abundance.


The salad greens, sautéing greens, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, purselane, wild spinach, walking onions, parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, thyme, oregano, tarragon, savory, sage and of course the beloved garlic scapes, are all in full swing. By the time this publication is out there will be another entire list of summer foods available.

When we look at the vitamins, minerals and higher order compounds in our local food we realize it truly is our best medicine. Seasonal eating means eating what is available in our surrounding communities in order to take advantage of the plant medicine at it’s peak.

Summer is the time of building our health and energy back up to it’s full potential in order to work and play hard. The fall is the time to harvest and eat warm root vegetables and herbs that tend to strengthen the digestive and respiratory systems just in time to help prepare us for the winter’s onset of colds and flu. Winter comes and we crave heavier, fattier foods to get us through the winter’s cold and darkness. Then Spring, with those first bitter greens helping to stimulate the liver and digestion, in order to ease us back into the warm abundance of summer…A beautiful and well-orchestrated seasonal dance if we are paying attention.

Traditional cultures that rely on plant medicine as their primary source of healing understand this connection and use local food and herbs to make teas, tonics, brews, syrups and delicious remedies. These are wonderful and powerful recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation to keep communities alive and healthy. These time-tested formulas that come to this country with first generation immigrants are frequently forgotten by the time the second generation has melted into our western society.

There is however a resurgence in the U.S. to remember these old ways and to put a fresh spin on it. People are learning what we like to call “Kitchen Medicine,” the use of food and herbs to prevent or lessen what ails you. Some of the things we like to create/recreate for great tasting kitchen medicine are, herb infused honeys, teas made from culinary/medicinal and wild herbs, broths loaded with herbs/mushrooms/vegetables, elderberry elixir, herbal extractions,  fire cider, herbal vinegars, tonics, brews and more.

One of the remedies we have fallen in love with this year is the switchel. A switchel is a drink that is both tart and sweet. These drinks were given to those who needed more than water to stay hydrated and continue a day of hard physical work. Here is a recipe for a single serving of a hibiscus switchel that we developed at TIOSN:

Hibiscus Mint Switchel:

We like to make a quart of the hibiscus, mint tea at a time.


– Hibiscus is a beautiful flower that makes a deliciously refreshing ruby red tea. It is a cooling plant that is high in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants. The flower is quite astringent and helps to tighten mucus membranes. In 2008 the American Heart Association published a report documenting that hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure in pre and mildly hypertensive adults.

-Mint adds delicious flavor, minerals and antioxidants to the tea. It is known to help relieve cramping in the digestive system and to help with alertness.

-Apple cider vinegar adds electrolytes, great for those who have been sweating due to work or play. It also helps to stimulate gastric juices, aiding in digestion.

-Honey is antimicrobial and mineral rich. Local honey has the added benefit of being made from local plants helping folks cope with seasonal allergies.

1 heaping Tablespoon dried hibiscus flowers

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

1 quart water

Bring water to a boil. Pour the hot water over the hibiscus and mint leaves, cover and steep for 1/2 hour.

Pour 1 cup of tea through a strainer into a glass and add,

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon honey

1-teaspoon lime juice

Stir to dissolve honey.

Refrigerate for several hours, serve cold.

Making food and herbs our medicine is one of the most powerful things we can do for our health care. Finding local sources for your food or learning to grow some of your own, better assures peak flavor and nutritional/medicinal potency.

Ask your elders if they remember any of these old remedies and write them down. These are fascinating and valuable pieces of our health history. The time has come to learn these remedies again to insure that they are not lost to us and future generations.

For information on how you can learn about more kitchen medicine, foraging, culinary skills, sustainable gardening and seasonal nutrition contact The Institute Of Sustainable Nutrition at 860-764-9070

Open House At The Farm

Spend A Beautiful Evening At The Farm With TIOSN

table of foodIMG_1997harvest comfrey

-Sip a refreshing tea from the garden

-Taste some delicious tidbits made by our students

-Go on an evening foray to learn some of our local wild food and herbs

-Hear about what is happening outdoors and in the garden

-See what we are making in Kitchen Medicine

-Learn more about what we do at the school to see if it might be right for you


FRIDAY, August 19

6:30 – 8:30

Holcomb Farm

113 Simsbury Rd

West Granby, CT 06090

RSVP 860-764-9070




Planting Your Healthcare Series

Part Two

Spring Garden Preparations – Enhancing Mineralization and Soil Life

TIOSN Garden instructor Nigel Palmer, will present a two hour class in the TIOSN garden. We will start with a plant model discussion that forms an understanding of our gardening practices. We will present sustainable fertilization and soil inoculation alternatives to N-P-K. Making full spectrum, low cost amendment products will be introduced. Bring your questions and curiosity.

Saturday, April 16
2 – 4 PM

TIOSN At Holcomb Farm
113 Simsbury Rd
West Granby, CT 06090
$15 in advance/ $20 at the door

You can pay the farmer now or the doctor later

Register for Planting Your Healthcare: Spring Garden Preparations - Enhancing Mineralization and Soil Life

Pay pal registration
  • Price: $15.00 Quantity:
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.




Planting Your Healthcare: A Tea/Culinary/Medicinal Herb Garden



Growing and eating your own food and herbs is a sustainable practice that regains and maintains your physical and mental health. Join Joan Palmer, founder of The Institute Of Sustainable Nutrition, and learn about the simple, yet powerful, delicious, medicine we can grow in our gardens. Learn which plants to grow in your own Tea/Culinary/Medicinal Herb Garden, which plants grow in this region and what to do with them in order to start taking control of your healthcare. 

Tea will be served

Where: Holcomb Farm

113 Simsbury Rd Granby, CT 06090

When: Wednesday, April 13

6 to 8 PM

Cost: $15

Call with questions and concerns 860- 764-9070


Register for Planting Your Healthcare: A Tea/Culinary/Medicinal Herb Garden

Pay pal registration
  • Price: $15.00 Quantity:
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

When Food Began To Matter

For most of my life, food wasn’t something I put much effort into. To my mother’s dismay, I became vegetarian at 11 years old, simply because I couldn’t imagine eating an animal. My Mom tried her best to feed me all the things a growing child needs, but I shunned her efforts, often spending my own allowance on Wonder Bread and Diet Coke since she refused to purchase such fare. Throughout my college career, I lived on beer and calzones, and only became interested in cooking several years after graduating.

It was around that time when a friend offered me their organic CSA share while they were on vacation. I fell in love with the farm, and I promptly signed up for the next season. I was slowly finding that I enjoyed working in the kitchen, and I worked diligently on learning how to preserve the bounty so that nothing would go to waste. My understanding of the importance of food had just begun to blossom, however the concept of food as medicine was still blurry.

Everyone’s awakening is different- for some, it’s a gradual journey that they take over time. For myself, I remember exactly when it clicked. My 5 day old daughter had undergone heart surgery, and the effects it had on her body still make me sad when I think about it. Not only was she full of painkillers, but she had developed a blood clot so she was receiving blood thinners. One morning, the doctors admitted that they had inadvertently given her an adult dosage of the blood thinning medication. “She would be fine,” they said, “but we believe in full disclosure so we had to let you know.”

All I could think of was how toxic her little body had become. As much as I understood the need for the lifesaving medication, I was concerned about the effects it would have over the long term. Feeling helpless and scared, I confided in the nurse during one of our late-night feeding sessions. As we discussed ways to help my baby detoxify, it was then that it struck me- my breastmilk. That was going to be her medicine. In order to help her body cleanse and restore, I had to eat foods that would provide the highest level of vitamins and nutrients. By nourishing myself, I would nourish her, and that is when I began to view food as having potent medicinal qualities.


My personal growth since that day has been a whirlwind. It is often difficult to navigate the food system our country has created, and I find comfort in buying local and knowing where my food comes from. Upon graduating from TIOSN, I have an even greater understanding of how integral clean food is to the human body, and I’m motivated and inspired to do the best I can for my family. After 30 years of being a vegetarian, I’ve learned through my classes how organic, pastured animals can provide vitamins and nutrients that cannot be replicated by any other food source. I still can’t eat it myself, but I will occasionally cook it for my family. As I reflect on the days since food began to matter, I’m grateful for the knowledge, empowerment, and understanding brought to me by TIOSN.





Open House At The Farm

monarch on mex sunLearn about our program and this season of abundance!

Monday, August 17, 6:00 – 8:30 pm

-Join us for a walk-about to learn our wild plants and what you can do with them
-Taste a little something prepared by our students
-Sip a tea from some of our herbs
-Hear what is happening in our sustainable garden practice
-Learn some kitchen Medicine
-Meet our staff and students
-Learn how you can be part of this growing community

113 Simsbury Rd
West Granby, CT
RSVP 860-764-9070

Medicinal Mushroom Event At The Farm

7:00 – 9:00 PM

-Bring food and picnic on the lawn with friends from 6 to 7
-Medicinal Mushrooms from 7 to 9 PM

Our local woods are home to many species of fungi that can be used as part of a holistic approach to health.
You will learn which mushrooms are medicinally powerful, where they are found in the Northeast, and how to use them.

Enjoy a delicious tea made from our local herbs and weeds


Alison found a large Hen Of The Woods, Maitake – Grifola frondosa

Cost $5

Questions or concerns call, 860-764-9070
Holcomb Farm
113 Simsbury Rd
West Granby, CT 06090

And The Awakening Begins

It was a beautiful late afternoon in July, and as I arrived at my weekly CSA pickup I noticed they’d set up a demo of some sort. I vaguely remembered seeing an email announcing a special guest, and as I had no further plans for the rest of the day, I grabbed a seat and figured I’d stay as long as my 3 year old would let me. The special guest that day was introduced as Joan Palmer, founder of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition. She began chopping a lovely, organic cabbage, and explained that she would be making sauerkraut. As she continued prepping, she began discussing the benefits of fermented foods, and how integral they are in maintaining optimum health. Fermented foods weren’t something I was terribly familiar with, and I was intrigued. As a mom and small business owner, I had little time to do fun things in the kitchen, and here’s this engaging lady telling me that I could cut up some veggies, soak them in salty water for a week or two, and essentially create an amazingly healthy, medicinal food for my family? I was hooked, and made my first batch that very night.

Joan and her sauerkraut demonstration permeated my thoughts the rest of that week. By the weekend, I had finally looked up the TIOSN website to learn more about the certification program. Their philosophy and curriculum really resonated with my beliefs about the importance of the food we consume. The four components sounded really exciting- I’m one of those people who knows a little about a lot, so the thought of being formally coached by these experts was truly appealing. As I gazed upon the price tag, my heart did skip a beat. Ok (deep inhale), so this means I’m not going to attend just out of curiosity.  I will pursue the financial aid, and I will consider this an investment in my own future. I wasn’t quite certain what direction I would go with it, but I did know this- just the thought of attending this program made me feel intensely awake, inspired, and motivated. I’ve learned to follow the path that makes my heart sincerely happy, and I knew that by pursuing this education the path would open itself up to me. I just had to make the leap.

As I reflect upon my choice to enroll at TIOSN, I am grateful for that sunny day last July. I am grateful to my CSA farm for coordinating the event, and I am grateful that Joan chose purple cabbage to ferment. Purple is my daughter’s favorite color, and that is the only reason she agreed to sit with me through the lesson. Before I enrolled, I did my best to provide healthy sustenance for my family- we stayed active through biking and walking, and ate as “clean” as our budget would allow. As I near the end of the program, I now have a more thorough understanding of what it means to be healthy. I am better able to cook and meal plan, thereby stretching that budget for sourcing clean food. I now have a firm comprehension of how the body functions on an anatomical level, increasing my awareness of how important true health really is. There is so much more to the awakening that’s been brought about by the instructors, it’s too much to list in one paragraph. As I’ve learned about wild edibles, I now look at the roadside weeds and see a nutritious salad. It’s an amazing awareness, and a true sense of connection to our world that’s been brought to me by TIOSN. I feel I have a good sense of how I will share my education with other families in the community, and I look forward to continuing my journey on this path. It’s been an incredibly rewarding and life changing experience so far, and I know it’s only the beginning.


June Open House At The Farm

Open House At The Farm

Wednesday, June 10

6:30 – 8:00 PM

DSCN1825Sage blooming…such a lovely time of the year

-Join us for a walk about to see our wild plants and what you can do with them
-Taste a little something prepared by our students
-Sip a tea from some of our herbs
-Hear what is happening in our sustainable garden practice
-Learn some kitchen Medicine
-Meet our staff and students
-Learn how you can be part of this growing community

113 Simsbury Rd
West Granby, CT