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Leaf Home arrow Heritage arrow Heritage2 arrow Woodbury man raises food the Abenaki way
Woodbury man raises food the Abenaki way
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Woodbury man raises food the Abenaki way
Cassandra Brush
June 27, 11:45 PM


Six years ago, Todd Hebert was a typical Vermonter camping out with his family one summer weekend. Within a few days, his life changed forever. He, his wife Deborah and their two children attended a crafts show and Abenaki Powwow in Evansville, Vermont. What Hebert didn’t know before the powwow was the he, himself, was Abenaki. The fact had been kept a family secret. But when he and his mother witnessed their cousins dancing in the “sacred circle,” Hebert started to learn more than he had ever known about his heritage.

Hebert vaguely recalled his grandmother saying that their family was “Indian” when he was only 3 years old. But she quickly followed up the revelation with “but we don’t talk about that,” and she never mentioned it again.

“A lot of people were ashamed,” Hebert explained. But mostly, they were afraid. The State of Vermont had instituted a eugenics program in his grandmother’s lifetime; native people were sterilized or even institutionalized. Many of them hid their identity as a form of survival, Hebert said. But he didn’t know anything about this until he was an adult with that feeling that he had come home coupled with the sight of his cousins performing the Abenaki’s sacred dance.


From that point on, Hebert learned as much as he could about his heritage. And with that learning came a radical change in how he lived his life. He gave up drinking. He started learning about wild edible and medicinal plants. He started on a path to become a healer, and to raise as much of his food as he could. Hebert also started up a website where he sells native American crafts and Vermont harvested medicinal herbs and botanicals.

From his hill top home in Woodbury, Vermont, surrounded by gardens and livestock, Hebert explained that the more he learned about his Abenaki heritage, the more he changed how he lived. He started remembering how his grandmother ministered to him with herbal medicines when he was a child, and how she taught him about wild edible plants. In addition to taking classes and learning all he can about medicinal and edible plants and herbs, Hebert also transformed his yard, so that every square inch is used to raise food.

He installed a massive vegetable garden, featuring corn, peas, broccoli and a cornucopia of other foods. He started raising laying hens and ducks, and sells the eggs his family couldn't use. Out back, his beautiful flower garden is filled with useful culinary and medicinal herbs, including everything from oregano and basil, to yarrow and calendula. He uses native techniques to keep his plants healthy, such as creating a “tea” out of comfrey leaves, steeped in water. His boisterous, deep green tomatoes bear witness to the remedy’s effectiveness.

Hebert grows his corn, beans and squash in the traditional native American “three sisters” manner: a mound of soil gets one corn plant, some pole beans, which climb the corn, and squash, which acts as a cover crop to shade the ground and keep weeds at bay. Between the mounds, he has planted white clover, which feeds the soil by fixing nitrogen.

“Besides my native roots,” Hebert said, “The biggest reason I’m doing this is I want to know where my food comes from.”

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