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New Argyle Farmery making its own P.E.I.-grown tea leaves and herbs

Janell MacDonald enjoys a cup of tea in her garden at the New Argyle Farmery. Behind her are many plants, like calendula, anise hyssop, oregano, thyme and sage.
Janell MacDonald enjoys a cup of tea in her garden at the New Argyle Farmery. Behind her are many plants, like calendula, anise hyssop, oregano, thyme and sage. - Daniel Brown
NEW ARGYLE, P.E.I. —

A rural Prince Edward Island business owner has found giving up her job as an accountant and running a farm just her cup of tea.

Janell MacDonald just planned to move into the farmhouse at first. It, along with the barns and land, originally belonged to her late father, who was a dairy farmer. 

Soon, she and her partner started growing their own vegetables. Eventually, they took in some goats and some chickens.

“I kind of felt like I should do something with some of the land,” she said.

After beginning an online course on herb farming, the former accountant is now known for her tea.

“I actually don’t like traditional black tea, but I really like herbal tea,” she said.

Her business, the New Argyle Farmery, grows all sorts of herbs for the tea, like mint, chamomile, holy basil and lemongrass. 

She has land set aside to grow and harvest the herbs. It’s in the process of becoming certified organic. She also grows perennials so that the land doesn’t have to be tilled as much.

“We do have quite a bit of land,” she said. “[But] I prefer just the smaller scale for right now.”

After harvesting her herbs, she takes them into her shop, strips away any loose leaves, and sets them on racks to dry. Drying can take around four days, she said.

Then she seals and sells them. 

She’s taken part in the Thursday Pop-Up Market and Farm Day in the City in Charlottetown, and her products are at the P.E.I. Preserve Company in New Glasgow.

“People really enjoy them and keep coming back,” MacDonald said, noting one of her friends doesn’t drink any other kinds of tea now.

Tea isn’t the only use for her herbs. She also infuses them into a variety of locally sourced products, from apple cider vinegar to deodorant.

She plans to make her own hydrosols, which is water distilled from herbs and fruits.

“It’s kind of like the byproduct of essential oils.”

Right now, she cycles through selling different kinds of teas, but she’d like to one day have five signature teas. She’s also working to sell her product online.

She still works as an accountant, picking up contract work in the winter months when she can’t garden as much. But she transitioned to focusing on herb farming full-time last year, and it’s been going well, she said.

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