LIVING THE SWEET LIFE

Pequot Lakes woman finds some of life’s sweetest rewards foraged in the wild

WRITTEN BY JODIE TWEED | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF SWEET LEAF FARM  

Chantal Netzer, Pequot Lakes, standing in front of her 10-foot pyramid trellis filled with heirloom green beans, has made her hobby of foraging and gardening into a business. She sells her herbal teas and jewelry and soon will open Sweet Leaf Farm, a fruit orchard and cut flower business.

CHANTAL NETZER HAS ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN TO NATURE. As a young girl, she would walk through the woods, collecting and playing with plants. She’d spend hours in her grandparents’ gardens, enchanted by the sights and smells of life taking root. She would eat the produce straight from the vine, before it was even ready to be picked. Her parents also had gardens and enjoyed working with the earth. So it’s no surprise that foraging and growing plants continues to play a deep, meaningful role in her life.

Plants are medicinal, spiritual and beautiful, as integral to life as breathing.

Chantal often forages for plants. If she can’t find them in the woods, she grows them herself. And no matter where she’s lived, including Los Angeles and Montana, she’s had a garden. Since 2012 she has made and sold her own jewelry, using foraged herbs, flowers, and minerals. Bezels are cut from pure copper sheet and formed by hand utilizing foraged materials. Crystals used in her jewelry were found on hiking adventures in the mountains.

In addition to selling her handmade jewelry, she also started her own herbal tea business in 2012. Her sleep tea, which can help reduce anxiety and provide a deeper sleep, is made of seven ingredients — passionflower, chaga melanin, wild lettuce, blue pea flower, wood betony, hops flower and peppermint. It’s a top seller. She ships her tea blends all over the country and will do one-on-one consultations with clients to make them their own special blends. She grows or forages most of her tea ingredients. She is primarily self-taught, and even studied advanced biology and chemistry on her own. Last year she graduated from the International School of Detoxification in Florida, a rigorous certification that expanded her knowledge on using natural herbs and medicines to detoxify.

Sweet Leaf

“Making teas is a serious business,” Chantal explains. “You have to know what you’re doing. One herb may be good for one person, but not for another. There is an art and science to blending herbs.”

Chantal is both an artist and scientist, intrigued by the growing process and its beauty.

“Everything captivates me about plants,” she says. “It fascinates me to watch them bloom and then harvest it. It’s an incredible feeling. I sometimes sit in the garden and stare at the plants.”

This Blue Moon Bath Tea blend made by Netzer includes chrysanthemum, butterfly pea flower, blue cornflower, and yellow roses.

Chantal spent three years working at the Treehouse in Pequot Lakes, where she helped expand their herbal offerings. She also learned a great deal about the plants she loves to grow. In addition to the thirty varieties of herbs she grows in her garden, she enjoys the challenge and rewards of growing fruit, even in Minnesota. She grows grapes, apples, gooseberries, jostaberries, honeyberries, elderberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.

When she’s not working in her own garden, Chantal has her own landscaping and cleaning business. Last year she and her fiancé, Braden Palmer, purchased farmland west of Pequot Lakes, where they plan to build a home this summer. As she walked the property, she was excited to discover many large patches of sweet leaf growing on site. Sweet leaf (mondarda fistulosa) is a native wildflower and medicine used by Native Americans. It has a rich, buttery taste and magnificent smell and is high in essential oils, she says. It has unique burn healing properties and works wonders for many other ailments. Chantal has planted sweet leaf wherever she has lived.

As a result, Sweet Leaf Farm was born.

Chantal and Braden plan to build a fruit orchard, and she will be expanding her herb and cut flower gardens. Sweet Leaf Farm is her dream come true.

“This is my happy place,” she says with a smile as she walked through one of her many gardens last summer.

To learn more about Sweet Leaf Farm, visit www.thesweetleaffarm.com.

Want to read more?