Neem, a revered tree with centuries of traditional use, holds great significance for its remarkable benefits. At the forefront of harnessing the power of Neem is Neem Trees Farm, playing a vital role in promoting its importance.
In this exclusive interview with Vicki Parsons, the visionary founder of Neem Tree Farms, we embark on a captivating journey to uncover the sustainable power of Neem.
With a deep-rooted passion for this remarkable tree and its multitude of benefits, Vicki shares her extensive knowledge and experiences, shedding light on the untapped potential of Neem.
Join us as we delve into the world of Neem, exploring its ecological significance, holistic properties, and the transformative role it plays in promoting a greener and healthier future.
Shudeshna: Hi, welcome to our channel Plantscraze. Today we’ll be talking with Neem plant expert Miss Vicki Parsons. So before beginning, how about you introduce yourself and tell a little about the company to our audience?
Vicki Parsons: I started Neem tree farms in 1992, totally by mistake. I am chemically sensitive; I can’t tolerate any kind of poison. But I’m a gardener at heart and rescue dogs.
So in 1992, they said, ‘Spray poison.’ I sprayed poison until I got sick. We started growing Neem because I found Neem trees in Orlando, which is about 90 minutes from where I am in Tampa.
And then we had a sick dog with terrible congenital joint issues. We had one operation done, and his shoulder was fine, but the other shoulder went out.
Then, we took him back to an orthopedic vet, and the orthopedic vet said, ‘You’re gonna have to put the puppies down for sleep.’ He was just nine months old, and it hurt too badly.’ And he was fine, but solved. We were floored.
So we got a book called ‘Neem, a Tree for Solving Global Problems.’ It said that Neem was a pretty good anti-inflammatory. So we started putting Neem on his food, and two weeks later, he felt better.
That was kind of the reason I was put on this earth: to grow Neem. And here I am 33 years later.
S: I mean, it’s amazing to hear how a problem gave rise or gave birth to the whole idea of growing Neem in the U.S. I’m basically of Asian origin. We use Neem on different occasions, like from birth to death. So it’s remarkable how you got a hint of Neem from a book and then used it. So how many types of Neem are you growing now on your Neem Tree Farm?
Vicki Parsons: We just grow Azadirachta Indica. Because we grow Neem, we get calls from Indians who say, “If you are growing Neem, can you also grow plants we’ve never heard of?”
But we grow Gotu cola, Tulsi, Ashwagandha, and pretty much anything somebody calls and says, “Can you grow?” I’ll give it an all-American try.
Amla, we can’t grow. It just doesn’t survive. We don’t know why. But pretty much everything else, if we get enough demand for it, we can figure out how to make it happen, which is really fun for a gardener like me.
S: Neem is a plant with antibacterial and antibiotic properties. And now people are more directed toward having organic food and products. Neem is a green substitute for pesticides as well. So what’s your take on that?
Vicki Parsons: As you know, well, let me first tell you, in case somebody in the US hears this, I do not have FDA approval or EPA approval to sell products that do pretty much anything other than saying Neem is good, which is what the FDA has to prove.
I’ll always have to preface anything I say about that. But from my perspective, we started growing it as a pesticide.
Today, I checked my numbers from last week, just in case you asked me this question, and we sell about twice as many skincare products with Neem and three times as much dollar revenue in Neem medicinal herbs, such as capsules and extracts.
So the American market recognizes Neem as a pesticide, but we’re really selling more Neem as a medicinal herb.
And just in case, your next question is going to be about a third of my consumers being Indian. I mean, that’s just judging by names, not asking somebody where they’re from, but about a third of my consumers are Indian, and the rest of us are John Smiths and Jane Blozes, not Indian.”
S: So, how did the idea of turning Neem apart from pesticides come into your mind?
Vicki Parsons: That dog, yeah, when I saw what an amazing – I mean, it really was – yeah, to be told I was going to have to put a nine-month-old dog to sleep and then define something that made it possible that I could say, okay, the dog’s not going to, I don’t have to put this dog to sleep.
He’s comfortable. He is happy. He got along really, really well. And yeah, that was life-changing. Then I have a friend who is – well, he’s now retired – an anesthesiologist, and he was growing Neem in Mexico.
So that’s when we seriously got into Neem as skincare, Neem as soap, Neem as capsules, Neem as extracts. And that was coincidentally, probably not coincidentally, but right about the time the internet came into existence.
Now we’re talking 1996, and Neem is still – I mean, it’s still not necessarily known in this country – but we were one of the first websites on the internet.
That was such an important avenue to sell things that we could say to people, this is what this is, this is what this does.
And we had a much larger audience than we would if we were in Florida, knocking on doors, trying to sell plants or health food stores, and trying to sell capsules to somebody who’d never heard of it.
So yeah, we had an audience looking for it, which made all the difference.
S: So that’s that’s that’s quite a journey, I must say. And now, when I look at the website, there are so many products. But what caught my eye was the Neem capsule. How about you elaborate a little about the Neem capsule?
Vicki Parsons: Neem is a super powerful immune system booster, and that’s probably why it’s such an effective antibiotic and antiviral because it obviously has the properties that kill those pathogenic microbes, but it also boosts your immune system.
So if you have something like urinary tract infections, they are big, and antibiotics clear them right up on that second, but they come right back. And if you’re taking Neem and antibiotics, they pretty much don’t come back.
S: Yeah, even I remember when we were really young, our mom and grandma, they used to feed us with a Neem water as a tea, whenever we got sick or whenever we had skin allergies, they would give it to us by incorporating it in the soap. And so I had the memory, but when I, you know, when I talk with my friends from the U.S., they seem to find it, you know, they usually behave as if, oh my god, how can the leaf be directly used on your body?
Vicki Parsons: Yeah, I’ve known Indian children very, very seldom get sick because they know they’re going to get Neem if they do it. They taste so bad.
S: Moving on with the questions. Now that we talked about the capsules. How effective are Neem pesticides on your plant compared to what we use chemically?
Vicki Parsons: It depends on the plant and the pesticide. And again, I can’t use anything poisonous as far as I’m concerned.
If something needs to die, it just has to. I can’t take care of it. But there’s a product called BT that’s actually better for caterpillars than Neem.
Neem works on what we grow – we grow a good bit of food for hungry people with that goal. Then it turns out we have rabbits, so we grow less. However, we have citrus, carambolas, mangoes, avocados, and bananas.
We grow a lot of fruit, and berries are big too. If I see something on them, I always use a bit of Neem cake, which is left over from the Neem oil when pressed from the seed.
So you end up with this cakey stuff. You put it on the ground, and the plant takes it up through its leaves, deterring bugs.
But usually, Neem cakes are hard to find in this country, mainly because it’s so expensive to ship. So I’ll sell it to somebody who comes to see me, but I hate putting it in a box and shipping it. It’s just such a, it’s expensive. And it’s obviously contributing to carbon dioxide and making our world a scary place for the next generation.
S: So yeah, is Neem cake the only way we can use it in plants, or can we also sort of make a solution or spread it onto the leaf directly?
Vicki Parsons: Actually, you have three choices with me. The first, of course, is probably to buy oil. It’s a pain.
It’s not difficult, but it’s time-consuming and messy to create your own Neem oil. Then mix it with less than an ounce per gallon of water and a little organic soap.
And then you spray your plants with that. And that’s every seven to 10 days. You can make your own Neem spray if you have tons and tons of Neem. And that would be to put a bit of it.
When you make your own Neem spray from leaves, you want to put about three to four and a five-gallon bucket. Stir it well, and leave it overnight. Again, put a little bit of soap in it.
Then you can spray that on your plants. Lastly, your third option is to use either one of those recipes and pour it around a plant. And it’s hard for me to give you specific directions on how much because it depends on how sick and big the plant is.
But the EPA, a difficult agency to deal with, recognizes that Neem kills a critter called nematodes, a multi-billion dollar pest in most of the world.
Because it comes in contact, but the soil drenching came home to me very clearly about 20 years ago, probably.
One of the other things I do is grow caterpillar food. And so caterpillars need very specific food. Each individual butterfly pretty much has its own demand for food. I wasn’t paying attention.
Then I dumped Neem oil on milkweed, which is the monarch caterpillar food. I had the most beautiful milkweed I’ve ever had, but no caterpillars. So personally, I would have preferred the caterpillars, but it really hit home how effective this treatment was.
S: So Vicki, moving on, what was it like back when you started, and now there’s a huge difference? People are more aware of the advantages and use of the new Neem. So, how do you think technologies, you know, are changing? How do you envision the use of technologies in the Neem business and spreading the goodness and merits of Neem?
Vicki Parsons: Honestly, I am really, really surprised that Neem isn’t more well-known. The research is there, the clinical studies are there.
But even Indians. I have a friend who’s an oncologist, and I talked to him about Neem. He said, ‘Oh, my mother used Neem,’ and kind of brushed me off.
Then, a major cancer institute in New York State did a review of Neem, specifically how Neem affected Cancer. I sent that to him and said, ‘Dr. Kuchalani, this is a report.’
He replied, ‘I know these people,’ but he is still not 100% committed to Neem. It’s just the fact that it’s an immune system booster.
I wouldn’t recommend to anybody that they skip antibiotics or modern drugs. If you’re really sick, take them along with an immune system booster and take Neem first.
If it’s just a minor issue, that would be my take on it. As I said, I’m very disappointed that it’s not more mainstream.
It becomes more mainstream every year. But I’m sorry that even Indian medical doctors are hesitant about why they should do it.
S: Now, that’s quite correct. I mean, the use of Neem has now been a little bit less than how it was before. So, talking more about your website. How can people or home gardeners, or anybody who’s new to gardening, take advantage of your website?
Vicki Parsons: My website has to comply with EPA regulations from a home gardener’s perspective. EPA regulations require that I don’t sell pesticides except those that are registered with them.
I have a dear Indian friend who imports an EPA-approved or registered pesticide, so we can sell it as a pesticide. However, apart from that, my website provides directions on how to make a pesticide from leaves.
It offers excellent guidance on using it as a soil drench rather than a spray. Another thing I’d like to mention about soil drenches for gardeners is that if you spray something for critters like mealy bugs, spider mites, or aphids, which can really harm your plants, Neem and any chemical pesticide will eliminate them effectively.
However, they multiply so quickly that they come right back, and as far as I know, no larval aphids are killed; they have to be adults to die.
The fact that you’re using a soil drench that enters through the roots and reaches the leaves means it doesn’t work as quickly, but it remains effective for four to eight weeks, depending on the severity of the infestation.
This is especially beneficial for new gardeners because it makes dealing with worms, aphids, and mealy bugs much easier before resorting to a non-toxic treatment. If you’re in India, I would strongly recommend looking for Neem cake.
S: Well, that’s nice to hear. So now we’re almost about the end of the interview. So is there any plan that Neem tree farms are looking forward to? Or when can we find Neem tree farms in the coming years or, let’s say, five years from now?
Vicki Parsons: I don’t know. I’m 68, so I’m not going to start a major international expansion at this point. We had looked at it twice, once before a giant recession and again before COVID.
And I’m not sure. They-uh- I really don’t want to compete with an Indian company. And it’s kind of sad. I do have Indian friends who take my products home, but that’s not what I want to do.
I want to have a kind of win-win. I’d like to promote Neem as the concept rather than Neem tree farms as the best Neem products you can buy, which I think is true. But I’d rather promote Neem as a concept than my company.
S: So yeah, that’s the end of our interview. And I’ll be really thankful that you shared your knowledge about Neem and tried raising awareness about Neem as an advantage and how you can use it for your pets and in your gardening experience. We really thank you for that, Vicki. And thank you for joining us for this interview.
Vicki Parsons: Thank you. It was very nice talking to you, and I hope to meet you someday.
Our insightful interview with Vicki Parson, the driving force behind Neem Trees Farm, has illuminated the extraordinary potential of Neem and the tireless efforts to promote its benefits.
Through Vicki’s deep knowledge and passion, we have gained a deeper appreciation for the remarkable qualities of Neem and its significance in promoting sustainability and well-being.
As we embrace the wisdom of Neem Trees Farm and its commitment to preserving this ancient knowledge, let us cultivate a greater understanding and reverence for Neem, unlocking its transformative power in our lives and fostering a greener, healthier future.
All The Best!