Alpine Botanicals: sublime alpine beauty + healing in Ned

An alpine healing vision blossoms in Nederland

By Tatyana Sharpton Jul 15 2020

When Kate Miller opened her downtown Nederland-based shop, Alpine Botanicals, in 2018, a need for healing drove her vision.

That vision comes through loud and clear when walking into the store on 1st Street — jars of healing herbs line the walls behind the counter, prints for sale featuring healing herbs and plants display along a side wall, tincture materials along another, woven hangings spread around, plants hanging from the ceiling, handwoven baskets gathered about with light pouring in from a back window, which leads to a balcony enclosed in a large two-story greenhouse flooded with natural light and a jungle of plants. You can catch glimpses of Middle Boulder Creek from the back of the greenhouse.

If you could bottle the sublime alpine beauty that blossoms every summer in Nederland, Alpine Botanicals might embody it better than anyplace indoors can. It’s a portal.

Kate Miller. Image Jennifer Morgan.

The vision

To realize her vision, Kate leveraged her early experience with herbal medicine and holistic nutrition as a teen coping with autoimmune conditions and her degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on International Sustainable Agricultural Policy from CU.

Alpine Botanicals sells aromatherapy items, herbal smoking blends, mushrooms and bulk dried herbs, tonics, oracle decks and honey. It also has a variety of products geared towards womens’ health, such as natural makeup, menopause health, and moontime, pregnancy and postpartum support.

Kate prefers to support a local and regional economy over large suppliers, featuring smaller and mostly women-owned artisan brands and product lines from all over the Rocky Mountains west. However, she orders certain herbs that can’t grow locally and some FDA-approved products such as tinctures online.

Kate also started formulating her own product line of herbal tea blends and skincare products, her baby. Image: Jennifer Morgan.

“We’re essentially a community-supported apothecary at the end of the day,” Kate tells BLDRfly. “It’s very locally oriented, and that was always the goal. Most of our herbalists live in Boulder County and a few live in Gilpin County.”

If you could bottle the sublime alpine beauty that blossoms every summer in Nederland, Alpine Botanicals might embody it better than anyplace indoors can. It’s a portal.

In conjunction with her apothecary and its onsite greenhouse and commercial herbal production facility, Alpine hosts workshops and events and has an onsite healing space where local healers — massage therapists, aromatherapists and more — serve clients.

Kate collaborates on events with other teachers and facilitators, and normally the summer’s educational season runs May through November. Though Covid-19 has halted physical classes this year, the shop still runs Zoom classes — such as natural remedies for children’s health, cannabis as the tree of life and sacred psychoactives — and holds outdoor plant walks.

The Alpine path

A certified herbalist and biodynamic herb grower, Kate first learned biodynamic farming methods in 2010 while interning at Growing Gardens — the glorious set of community gardens near Long’s Gardens in the heart of Boulder — in her senior year at CU Boulder.

Foraging for medicines. Image: Jennifer Morgan.

While at CU, Kate, who had always loved gardening and had an interest in local food security, thought she would work at the cross-section of environmental studies and policy, which looked a lot like environmental journalism. However, that changed when she realized she could do more — and enjoy it more — through working in nature than she could from behind a computer screen.

“I’m one who does much better physically and emotionally if I’m in the garden,” says Kate, who grew up in a small mountain town in Idaho. “I felt like I had a lot more to offer if I was able to focus on the garden.”

Living in Boulder since 2004, she quickly saw it becoming a city, and she craved a more rural lifestyle. She and her husband made the move up the mountain to Nederland in 2013 and have lived in an off-grid solar-powered home at the edge of the designated wilderness for three years.

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When she first moved to Ned, Kate noticed that while it was a mecca for people learning about Rocky Mountain medicine, the town didn’t have a local hub focused on sustainable and ethically sourced medicine grown in the region.

Image: Jennifer Morgan.

With little apothecaries popping up all over, like Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary in Boulder and Little Herbal Apothecary in Lafayette, community herbal shops have do doubt become valued, but when you’re 35-40 minutes up the mountain (especially come wintertime) you need something hyperlocal — and that’s where Alpine Botanicals came to life.

Today, focused on dry-land & alpine farming, mountain ecology, ethical wildcrafting and habitat restoration, the permaculture designer and teacher has actively practiced these biodynamic and regenerative farming methods at the company’s East Boulder herb farm site since 2015.

Owning property also gives Kate an opportunity to steward the land, and with the negative impact that years of logging and mining have caused Ned’s land, she sees this as her chance to help rehabilitate the space, healing intentionally.

Tuning into the rhythm of the seasons makes up a large piece of the biodynamic modality that Kate commits to practicing. While winters are for putting the abundance of the garden into physical medicines and dreaming into the future, January starts the planning season with ordering seeds, and come February, Kate can begin planting crops which only expand into summer.

Including Kate, Alpine Botanicals runs on a staff of five. Sensitive to the difficulties of finding solid work as an herbalist, Kate strives to offer a living wage and closer to full-time gigs to her employees, providing support not just as a boss but as a mentor.

Part of being a mentor means helping young herbalists find the balance between the “what can I use this for” mentality while foraging and a simple reverence for nature’s intrinsic magic — not losing sight of the work’s integrity just because it becomes a business.

Header Image: Kate in the garden. Image: Jennifer Morgan.