Rockport's Avena Botanicals, run by Deb Soule '81, is the first certified biodynamic farm in Maine. Rockport's Avena Botanicals, run by Deb Soule ’81, is the first certified biodynamic farm in Maine.

ROCKPORT — The first indication that agriculture is practiced differently on a biodynamic herbal farm is the ritual before the rose petal harvest. Farmer Deb Soule, the founder of Avena Botanicals, sits quietly on the grass next to the hedgerow of rosa rugosa. It’s a cool morning and the petals are just opening. A trio of harvesters wait nearby, holding flying saucer-sized baskets. Soule is meditating and giving a silent thank-you to the rosa rugosa, which stretch about 40 feet away from her and are at least 5 feet wide.

When she feels that the time is right, she begins the harvest and the others follow, tenderly taking only the open roses, whole, with their yellow middles, and placing them in the baskets where they sit, like bright pink fried eggs over perfectly easy. The season for this crop runs about three weeks and will result in about 40 pounds of rose petals in the brightest of pinks. They’ll be distilled or dried and turned into various herbal concoctions: rose petal elixir, rosewater spritzer, a tea called “peaceful heart.”

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