By nature, Sue Kusch is an educator.
When the time came for a new project, Kusch married her two passions, education and gardening, to create the blog Plants ‘N People, which is run out of her garden and home in White Salmon.
Plants ‘N People is an educational website dedicated to teaching readers about plants and how to use them in a variety of ways. Kusch focuses her posts on five themes, which highlights the variety of uses: grow, cook, heal, make and trek.
“My goal is to explore, educate, entice and entertain my readers,” explained Kusch.
Prior to moving to White Salmon in 2009, Kusch worked as an instructor and advisor at Clark Community College in Vancouver. Her desire to share knowledge eventually bloomed into the Plants ‘N People blog, launched earlier this year.
Before joining the World Wide Web as a blogger, Kusch ran an online herb store focused on handcrafted herbal teas, culinary seasonings, and traditional home remedies, known as: The Withered Herb.
“I had a longtime vision of developing a business around herbs and kicked around several ideas: herb nursery or farm, brick and mortar herb shop, clinical herb practice and herbal product making,” explained Kusch.
The idea she pursued was producing products, and The Withered Herb was born.
“I had no experience in retail or business and so I had quite the learning curve! My son developed my website while I focused on creating my gardens, researching, developing and testing product ideas, designing packaging and labels and locating venues to sell in person,” she said.
In the beginning, Kusch started peddling her wares at the Hood River Farmers’ Market, selling her mixes at large holiday events, and operating her online business through her home in White Salmon.
“I made a common, but critical, mistake,” Kusch said, “I didn’t do a thoroughly researched business plan and if I had, I think that it would have shown that the Gorge is a small market for such a specialized product.”
“In early 2016, I had to accept that the business was unsuccessful,” Kusch noted. As a result, Kusch shutdown The Withered Herb and sold all her remaining product. Once the store was closed, she reflected on the business and why it wasn’t successful.
The reflection yielded two lessons: “I thought about how I wanted to spend my days and what I wanted to create. As I reflected I thought about how much I enjoyed learning about plants (I have over 200 books on gardening, herbal medicine, cooking and plant crafts),” Kusch explained.
“I enjoy research and writing and developing courses and have plenty of experiencing from my previous career as a college instructor,” Kusch said. “And that’s how Plants ‘N People was born.”
Twice a month, Kusch sends out a newsletter to subscribers with tips, weird and interesting plant facts, plant photos, favorite plant quotes, jokes, and the latest from the Plants ‘N People Web site.
In the blog’s most recent post (which explained how to support native pollinators), Kusch works with guest contributor Dan Richardson, vice president of the Suksdorfia Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society, to highlight which plants of the Gorge will bring pollinators to a garden.
“Ideally, I want to inspire readers to grow some of their own food, learn to make a simple herbal remedy or two, landscape with care and diversity, and learn more about our unique native plant ecosystems,” Kusch explained.
“On a bigger scale,” Kusch noted, “I want to encourage more acts of self-sufficiency and in hope of developing local food economies, challenging people to take back control of their health by becoming more knowledgeable about plant foods and medicines, and garner a deep appreciation and conservation for plants and their ecosystems.”