GREENFIELD — At the Hancock County Herb Society, building relationships among members is as important as the hobby that brings them together.

The Herb Society meets the first Thursday of every month at the Patricia Elmore Center to educate its members on the growing, care and use of herbs and to promote herbs to the public, all while giving like-minded people the chance to form lasting friendships, said society secretary Carolyn Swinford.

The group is meant for beginners to meet up with mentors, who can help them get started growing herbs for food and use in other products.

The society is always learning something, said charter member Gwen Betor.

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“You don’t have to be an expert,” Betor said. “Most of us didn’t know anything when we joined. We’re still learning, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Swinford said the club focuses exclusively on herbs, which differentiates it from groups like Master Gardeners.

Members are not confined to any one demographic, Swinford said. There are men and women, young and old. The oldest member is 80, but younger people often take part.

One of the Hancock County Herb Society’s major projects every year is the maintenance of the gardens at the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum, Swinford said.

The gardens, which are free and open to the public all year, feature Riley’s poetry incorporated into different themed sections, Betor said.

The Hancock County Herb Society is aided in its efforts by the Greenfield Department of Parks and Recreation, she said — parks department employees place mulch in the gardens, for example.

The group promotes its work through community events like the Pixie Garden Tea Party, hosted for youngsters each summer in the backyard of the Hoosier poet’s boyhood home.

Every year, the Hancock County Herb Society hosts a plant sale the first weekend in May. This event is the group’s major fundraiser, Betor said.

The group often takes herb-themed field trips. Recently, the society visited Roseland Farm in Spiceland, where the Caprini Creamery is located and goat cheese with herbs is made and sold, Swinford said.

At a recent meeting, members discussed how to grow more herbs from cuttings, Swinford said — a technique that requires the gardener to apply root hormone to the stem of a plant.

Discussion also centered on the art of making soap with herbs in it.

Get involved

For more information about the Hancock County Herb Society, contact Deborah Smith at 317-462-7793 or Judy Laird at 317-462-2225.

The organization can be found online at

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or