It started with tea.

Lacey Walker would pour tea into the cups each visitor carried. Some teas were dark, almost a plum color. Others were lighter, like the color of honey.

After pouring the tea, Walker asked each to drink it and share what they tasted, how they felt. She does this so people have a better memory of the plants and their effects, she said.

“I believe the body is a really strong instrument to detect things,” she said.

Then Walker would describe each plant that went into the tea as well as its medicinal properties.

There was blackberry leaf, which can be used for some gastrointestinal distress, also cramps from the menstrual cycle.

Another was lemon balm, which can be used as anti-viral or sometimes to help with depression.

As Walker explained, Henry L. Mitchell, a freelance interpreter, translated her lesson for the members of the Chinese delegation who did not speak English fluently.

Fox Haven Farm does tours of their community supported agriculture garden once a month, Walker said. Usually, it’s people from the Frederick or Washington, D.C. area looking to learn more about plants and connect with nature.

But the group Sunday was a delegation from different areas of China as part of a Sustainable Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team, said Xinlin Song, who helped lead the group.

SMART is a traveling program, and the group at Fox Haven included people in the food industry, nature industry or others that were in fields related to nature or health.

There was even an artist, said JoAnn Coates-Hunter, education and operations director of Fox Haven.

The group came to Fox Haven to learn more about the medicinal community supported agriculture. The garden works by having people pay into it in exchange for receiving goods, or in the particular garden’s case, herbs. They were also learning about how to do farm-based education programs for kids and adults, as well as how cooperative markets work.

Fox Haven was one stop on the Chinese group’s tour. They came from New York where they were learning about other agriculture, Coates-Hunter said. They were staying a couple days at Fox Haven while learning.

It was the first time bringing a group from China to the United States, Song said.

“It’s amazing to learn all those different plants with many medicinal properties that we don’t know about,” she said.

The group already included people well versed in plants, agriculture and nature. There was an expert in urban farming, another was a nature scientist.

Most people who come to Fox Haven are looking to connect with nature, Walker said. This time the group was looking to expand on what they already knew. And because there were plants that they were familiar with, the group was able to teach Walker new uses.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at

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