The Lakes Region has a heavy-hitting herbalist in its midst. Living in an old farmhouse in Naples, Betsey-Ann Golon and her husband, Dale, are lucky Mainers. They’ve found a way to make a successful living doing what they love. Their company is nationally known as a purveyor of unique herbal products.

Betsey-Ann – or “Betz” – has sold products on cable’s QVC network, and in nearby New Gloucester, she works with the Shakers to produce their own herbal product line.

L.L. Bean also carries Common Folk Farm’s teas and other products, and Golon is an adviser to the herb gardens in Mount Vernon, the plantation home of first President George Washington.

She speaks about how this all came to be and why she enjoys living in the Lakes Region.

 

Q: Why did you start a business specializing in herbal products?

A: I love to cook with herbs. I had to learn to cook without salt because of a heart condition, and as a young wife I would substitute a little thyme or sage, just experimenting on my own.

But I wanted to be home and live the way I live. I chose a lifestyle over an income, taking something I taught myself to do and making it marketable.

 

Q: Why is the business named Common Folk Farm?

A: It keeps you humble. When I first started attending herbal conferences, there was a stigma that tea was kind of highbrow. It’s not. It’s just the opposite here in America. Growing and using herbs is something common people have done for generations.

And as a historian, the phrase “common folk” kept coming up in my research. I thought, that’s exactly what we are – we’re farmers, we’re doing a product that regular people will enjoy.

 

Q: Where did you learn about herbs?

A: My degree is in biology with a minor in botany. I think I developed a love of gardening from my father and my grandmother, both of whom were Maine gardeners. I’ve always said what you loved doing as a child you love doing as an adult.

 

Q: How did L.L. Bean and QVC discover you?

A: That all came about during our first trade show back in 1995 in Portland. QVC came to the farm when they did their series “America’s Best.”

Along with about nine or 10 others, they chose us out of some 400 businesses in the state. That was really at the beginning. We had six little products: three teas and three herbal seasonings.

 

Q: How did you get involved with the Shakers and Mount Vernon?

A: I’ve been working with the Shaker community for over 20 years. They were having trouble with their vinegars and asked a friend of mine if anyone could help.

On a bitter cold, icy day in February, I got a phone call from Sister Meg Haskell inviting me to come look at the problem. I figured it out, and she asked me if I would teach classes there.

There’s such a wealth of resources in that community; they’ve been gardening and growing herbs for 200 years. They all kept journals and extensive records. I’ve since brought some of that knowledge to other museums and gardens.

My husband, Dale, deserves the credit for Mount Vernon. We were doing a trade show near Washington, D.C., and he approached the estate’s representatives who were there milling about.

He invited them to come see what we had in our booth. We got talking and they learned about my products and background with the Shakers.

The next thing I knew I had an interview with them, which led to me doing programs for them and products for their gift shop. That was a big breakthrough because we really wanted to do more educational opportunities.

 

Q: How did you end up in Naples, and what do you like about the Lakes Region?

A: We came to Naples because my husband was working for Bridgton Health Care Center and it’s where my parents met, so there’s a romantic connection here!

I was born in Portland, and the Lakes Region was always a fun place to go. Living in Portland, you always wanted to be down at Old Orchard or out by the lakes.

I like that this is a good place to raise children. There’s four seasons of activities. We’re between the ocean and the White Mountains, and we can be to either in an hour.

I think it’s the best place on Earth; I never thought I’d want to live anywhere but on the ocean, but after moving here you couldn’t get me to the coast unless it was for a visit. There’s a real community feeling here. We still have a town meeting, and we talk to each other. That’s what I like.

 

Q: What’s the secret to a good tea?

A: Getting the best-quality ingredients and then brewing it correctly.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]