You all know him as the Herbal Cowboy. I am new in town (to the herbs and natural products industry) so I approached the situation with no idea what to expect, just a short text from Loren to go meet this “Mark Blumenthal” at the American Botanical Council headquarters, which was only a few blocks away from where I was vacationing in Austin, Texas. It is hard to not have favorites in this industry, especially when we constantly meet and quickly fall in love with so many of our new and seasoned members. We feel very privileged to rub shoulders with the passionate experts in the natural products and dietary supplements industry. BUT I think it is safe to say that Mark is an outlier, as there isn’t an unlikeable bone in his body. We all know him as the Herbal Cowboy, but officially he is Mark Blumenthal, Founder and Executive Director of the American Botanical Council.
I’ve met a lot of fascinating people in my life, but not even a fortune teller could have prepared me for the dynamic person I was about to meet. I got to the Case Mill Homestead around 11am and was immediately greeted by the wonderful ABC team. I introduced myself and my excitement for getting into this industry. I explained to the staff, which is wonderfully courteous by the way, that I came to their location with direct order from Loren Israelsen, to get at least one good photo of “the Herbal Cowboy”.
A few minutes into our small talk Mark walked into the room and greeted the staff he hadn’t seen in months, some meeting for the very first time. It was clear that Mark had been taking this quarantining very seriously, to protect himself and his intimate team. He treats them like family.
Mark greeted me, made me feel especially welcome with a small gift and then introduced me to their Head Gardener, Toby Bernal. We made our way to the gardens outside that were creatively organized by treatments.
Toby has been with ABC for over 11 years and maintains ABC’s 30 medicinal themes and grounds. He gave me a very thorough tour of the homestead, teaching me about plants and how living beings can profit from them. The grounds are beautiful and really ought to be considered a botanical museum. They had several rare varieties, like a Japanese Ginkgo Tree and Ashwagandha.
It appears they grow enough herbs to supply the suburbs of Austin, but Toby informed me that they simply grow to educate/demonstrate how to properly care for each one, as it is almost ever a “just add water” approach. Toby is always in need of assistants and he can only give attention to each segment of the garden once every 30 days. At the end of the season they will hold an event and give away all the excess plants, typically to friends and family of the staff.
At the end of our visit Mark sat down with me, told me a little bit about his lifestyle. He is no one to brag, but he ought to. He told me he hadn’t eaten meat in over 50 years. I opened up about my past and we had what felt like a padawan to Jedi conversation. He gave me some great advice, patted me on the back and gave me a small gift including the industry famous HerbalGram, the journal of the American Botanical Council, before sending me on my way.
What I admired most about Mark Blumenthal was his conduct. As a rookie to the industry I had a lot of questions. I asked him how he feels about the nature of the industry, and if he felt it was becoming competitive with all the new and young entrepreneurs starting to take root. He replied with something that won’t surprise anyone. He said he didn’t feel the competitive nature at all. He said that at ABC they are not here to compete with or take advantage of anyone, they are simply here to help the market. Quality control, conservation and sustainability, that’s their focus. He continued to tell me how we, speaking on behalf of the industry leaders, are all in this together and each association can provide something unique that will in the end benefit the consumers.
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