Kelseyville Company’s Salt-Free Spices Revival

Pat Gage is hoping she can catch lightning in a bottle a second time. Salt-free lightning.

Gage, a Kelseyville resident and self-described serial entrepreneur, is reviving the salt-free spice recipes that she first commercially produced three decades ago in Sonoma County. Her original company, Parsley Patch, was successful enough that global spice manufacturer McCormick & Co. purchased the business in 1987.

Now, Gage and her family are reviving recipes like “Garlicsaltless,” one of the Parsley Patch’s more popular blends. But this time, their two-year-old company, Engage Organics, is bottling spices that not only are sodium free, but also organic, gluten free and non-GMO.

The company’s products are featured online and in more than 100 Bay Area stores, Gage said

Engage Organics touts not only the health benefits but also the flavor of its nine blends — soon to be 11 varieties.

“It makes things taste so good,” said Gage, “and you don’t have to know how to season things.”

Along with Gage, the family business includes her husband, Jon Gage, son Jason Sherwood and nephew Jeremy Fitzpatrick.

Gage was a single mother named Pat Sherwood in 1980 when she teamed up with Elizabeth Bertani to start Parsley Patch. The two women, both Sonoma State University students, took out student loans in order to launch the business.

Their products drew considerable interest when they debuted at a 1981 food trade show.

A September 2012 Vegetarian Times story noted that the young company then was selling its products in 25 states. The blends were showing up in such diverse places as the Neiman-Marcus Spring Catalogue and the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica.

In 1984, Bertani sold her stake in the company to Jon Gage, an owner in a specialty foods brokerage that was marketing Parsley Patch. Pat Sherwood and Jon Gage married that same year.

In 1987, the Gages sold their business to McCormick, today a 125-year-old company with more than 10,000 employees. The couple went on to found other companies, including an athletic club and spa in Park City, Utah, and a soy beverage business targeting women.

“This is my fifth startup,” Gage said.

She and her husband decided to revive their spice recipes after watching the demise of all their original blends, especially Garlicsaltless, which she said she continued to depend on for her own cooking. Her inability to purchase it caused her to “get the message” about the need to revive their blends.

The family began Engage Organics in early 2012.

While the business is based in Kelseyville, it manufactures its spice blends at an organic farm near Potter Valley in Mendocino County and ships product from a warehouse in Santa Rosa.

The family is able to use the original recipes, which can’t be trademarked, Gage said.

What’s different today is that the company can use certified organic ingredients, as well as those that are gluten free and certified free of genetically modified organisms. Those qualities make Engage Organics different and more appealing to certain consumers, especially millennials.

“They’re very food savvy,” Gage said. “I salute them for wanting to know what’s in their food.”

Before the sale, Parsley Patch had a 33 percent market share of natural, sodium-free spice blends in the U.S., Gage said. That’s her family’s goal with Engage Organics.

To reach that goal, the owners want to expand into more natural food stores in the western U.S.

In Sonoma County, the spice blends can be found at Oliver’s Markets, Sonoma Market, Big John’s Market, Molsberry Market, Pacific Market, Fiesta Market and Raley’s supermarkets.

At Oliver’s Market on Montecito Boulevard, store manager Frank Camilleri said Engage Organics has done in-store demonstrations “and customers just love it.”

Taste is often lacking with salt-free spice blends, Camilleri said, “where this really enhances the product you put it on.”

The Press Democrat business article published September 4, 2014  |

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at (707) 521-5285 or On Twitter @rdigit


Loss of Abilities . . . Call the CBD Cavalry

When loss of hope shatters the present moment, it triggers strong emotions, realizing there is no meditation, medication, positive outlook, exercise or smoothie can fix it.

Ironically, most people view loss and disability as something that should not happen, rather than recognizing it as a window to a new reality that teaches the powerful lessons about how to find deeper meaning and make a contribution through chronic illness.

My husband, Jon Gage, and I faced the consequences of disability and loss, 10-years so, once Jon was diagnosed with Spino-Cerebellar Ataxia.

Just pronouncing the disease was difficult enough. Understanding what was to come and our ability to handle the challenges were daunting.

Jon’s diagnosis revealed he had a rare genetic disease, which wasn’t discovered by the medical community until the mid-1990’s. Ataxia is a close relative of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), most often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

This condition leads to the death of neurons that are responsible for voluntary movement. Damage to the motor cortex, which sends messages to muscles and nerves, impact the ability to move and get feedback from movements.

Before Jon became symptomatic, he was blessed with athletic ability, social and business skills, and a zest for life, which was peppered with a great sense of humor. Ataxia held all his gifts captive.

Now, 10 years later, damage to the motor cortex has robbed Jon of most of his motor abilities. He is in a wheelchair, cannot feel his hands, feet or legs, and is slowly losing his ability to talk and swallow. Ataxia is a cruel disease that ultimately steals independence and all bodily functions. And there is no known cure for this disease—an excruciating challenge for someone with so many physical gifts who had always been in the driver’s seat of his blessed life.

Jon’s loss of abilities intensified when pharmaceuticals failed to work. Medication only exaggerated his seizures, which turned his humor into anger. We were stymied about how to deal with medications that seemed to worsen his symptoms and further rob him of his independence.

Every day brought new challenges in how to navigate a world with limited options. Hanging on to hope was challenging.

Just when things seemed so dire . . . hope set in.

We bless the day our friend, Richard Rose, changed our lives by sending abstracts about how cannabis sativa helps seizures.

Until then, we thought cannabis was for stoners.

We couldn’t have been more misinformed.

As it turns out, we were ignorant that cannabis had healing powers. Jon’s balance was already challenging, so getting “high” would be the worst thing for his safety.

We didn’t realize that hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the cannabis genus of plants and are bred for different purposes.

Industrial hemp is exclusively produced by Cannabis sativa plants, while marijuana can refer to the sub-genus of Cannabis sativa.

Industrial hemp is grown for high percentages of CBD, whereas, marijuana strains of cannabis are typically bred for maximizing the concentration of THC.

Hemp does not produce a “high” and is used to create medicinal remedies because it does not produce psychoactive effects. Hemp is food, not marijuana.

Fortunately, the research Richard sent educated us about the healing benefits of hemp CBD, which is an acronym for cannabidiol, and is abundant in hemp.

Without this distinction, I doubt Jon would have been open to using CBD from marijuana. Understanding the difference opened a window of hope and purpose.

The Internet is replete with products and information about CBD.

Granted, we found some of the Google links difficult to comprehend. But learning that there are options available intensified hope.

The idea that cannabis has been part of civilization for 12,000 years was eye-opening. We were encouraged to learn about the healing benefits of this ancient plant people have used throughout time.

It wasn’t a stretch for us to understand the importance of antioxidant properties of plants. After all, we had spent years creating organic salt-free seasoning blends.

Despite our dance with herbs and spices over the years, we had been ignorant to the fact that cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 85 phyto-cannabinoids known to currently exist in the cannabis plant, and that these compounds have excellent antioxidant properties involved in keeping the body system in a balanced homeostatic state.

Learning about the incredible properties of this plant, we found new hope and purpose which brought us to a new level of commitment.

But because CBD has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, we felt hamstrung to share the healing benefits of CBD. How could we help others afflicted with debilitating illness? How could we bring hope and purpose to their lives if we can’t discuss the benefits of CBD?

We understood Jon’s disease was not going to go away—nothing could do that. But what we did know personally is that by using CBD on a daily basis, Jon was sleeping better and was requiring less pharmaceutical medication. He no longer needed to take anxiety pills. His anger was escaping.

These results gave us a new mission. A new reason to continue embracing our challenges instead of wanting to escape.

Our belief in the ability of CBD to heal, urged us to call in the cavalry to help us create a product to help others.

For that reason, we partnered with our son and partner, Jason Sherwood, and with the guidance and wisdom of Richard Rose (our cannabis guru) to create a line of CBD seasonings. We wanted people to be able to add the benefits of hemp CBD to their food through cooking. The method of delivering entire benefits of full spectrum plant phytonutrients in a hemp powder that didn’t use heat or chemicals to process hadn’t been done before. The idea of controlling one’s own CBD dosage with hemp Whole Plant Goodness™ was revolutionary.

After months of perfecting the CBD process to ensure we were delivering all the phyto-nutrients without harming them in the processing—our CBD infused seasoning blends were born. Born with a mission and purpose to educate others about the benefits of “High-CBD” Hemp.

The result is a flavorful line of new seasonings that contain CBD in 10mg/servings dosages. The Garlic-CBD-Mix can be used in virtually everything you cook and the Popcorn-CBD-Mix adds healthful zest to plain popcorn. The blends are delicious and have no medicinal after-taste.

Hopefully, our new line of Engage Hemp CBD Seasonings and Engage Hemp CBD Powder will deliver options for people wanting to maintain their health and vitality.

Despite Jon’s debilitating loss of abilities, we have been blessed with the help of our son, Jason, to make something good from the challenges we been given. Jon is dedicated to staying involved in the business and is working with the Ataxia Foundation to create donations to help conquer this cruel disease.

“High-CBD” Hemp has given us the ability to make better health choices for how to live a well-lived life with hope and purpose.

We wish you a well-lived life of abundance and gratitude and hope you join us in our commitment to helping others who suffer from debilitating illness.


The Parsley Patch eEvolution . . .

Remember Parsley Patch, the little salt-free seasoning company with panache that burst into the salt-free market in 1980 on the wings of an angel?

Jeremy Sherwood

Jason Sherwood

It’s back. But this time, it’s in an eEvolution called Engage Organics.

Fans begged over the years to bring back the salt-free blends that had become a secret ingredient in favorite recipes, lamenting they couldn’t cook without them.

For those who are unfamiliar with the original Parsley Patch Salt Free Seasonings, let me fill in the blanks for how the popularity of these blends remained strong over 30+ years.

As co-founders of Parsley Patch in 1980, my partner, Elizabeth Bertani, and I created a line of seasonings in our kitchens. At the time we were both mothers and students at our local Northern California State University.

Despite the fact we had no previous business experience, we had a dream of bringing our line of seasonings to other women, who were also balancing the growing demands for how to cook healthier foods in less time.

Jason Sherwood

Jeremy Fitzpatrick

However, getting our blends from our kitchens into the kitchens of other women was a puzzle. How would we begin to manufacture and distribute our seasonings, let alone finance our vision?
I still remember the day the light bulb went off. “Let’s get student loans and use it for seed money,” I said as my eye caught the word “Financial,” dangling outside the Financial Aid office at Cal State Sonoma. That was the beginning of a life-altering journey for both of us.

Like most new start-ups, our new business partnership was fraught with funding challenges from the beginning. However, call it synchronicity or luck; we were blessed with people, who believed in our product and became valuable mentors in guiding the direction and focus of the company.

In hindsight, it’s clear how influential Chris Blum’s vision and atypical logo and package design was to the initial acceptance of the product at its debut in 1981, at the San Francisco Fancy Food & Confection trade show. (Blum is famous for the Walking Levi’s Commercials now in the Smithsonian) Blum’s creation of a 4-color, die-cut label of an angel harvesting herbs on a cork-topped jar, was unlike any other food product at the time.

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This little company had panache and got noticed by Chapman Tait Brokerage, one of the largest Specialty Foods & Confection brokerage firms in the western states. Subsequently, Chapman Tait became the firm who would market the Parsley Patch brand to the public from the first trade show on.

From his first encounter with Parsley Patch seasonings, Jon Gage, co-owner of Chapman Tait, recognized the trend-setting elements in this little start-up as a potential innovator in the salt-free market.

So, Gage pushed for a package redesign of the decorative cork jars into standard 4oz. glass spice containers, with a focus on “salt-free,” to make Parsley Patch more competitive on grocery store shelves.

However, Gage was unaware I had recently mortgaged my house to finance the first label design. The idea of redoing the labels was unrealistic. I didn’t want to hear reasons why we needed to redo what we had just done. Rather, I simply wanted to see sales results on what we had.

Undeterred, and despite our gourmet packaging, Gage placed Parsley Patch into key stores in southern California. He further directed the marketing efforts to embrace a “salt-free” niche, by applying “salt-free” stickers to the label. As a result of these minor tweaks, Parsley Patch began to attract loyal following, willing to pay for a decorative jar, in the growing salt-free market, at a time when salt was being demonized.

After almost 3 years of building Parsley Patch’s market share, Parsley Patch was approached by Lawry’s Seasonings with a buy-out offer. At this juncture Bertani wanted to sell. I did not. (I did not want someone else to finish what I started.)

Consequently, raising funds to buy-out a partner, rather than using the capital to build the business, put the fledgling start-up at peril. Few people were interested in investing in a company yet to make a profit.

However, because Jon Gage had developed a strong commitment to Parsley Patch and had been integral to the growth of the company via his marketing efforts, Gage made an offer to buy Bertani’s share in the company.

So, instead of selling to Lawry’s, Gage bought Bertani’s half of the business, (equivalent to what she would have received from Lawry’s), despite warnings from his accountant that he should “run” in the opposite direction. The company was yet to make money. (This was well before the dot com buyouts changed all the buyout rules.)

Faced with a steep uphill battle in 1984, our newly formed partnership added 4 blends, bringing our total to 11 salt-free seasonings. It was at this juncture we added Garlicsaltless, (the recipe which came in a dream and never had to be changed).

Remarkably, Garlicsaltless finally turned the company financials from red to black. We celebrated our victory by blending our business and family life with our marriage at the end of 1984. It had been a very good year.

The next 4 ½ years were busy, building the brand with the help of our children, who became entrepreneurs-in-training, by filling sample bags, manning trade shows, and making deliveries. Our synergistic efforts allowed our little company to capture Gage’s vision of a significant market share in the salt-free category.

It was not long before the demand for these high-quality, healthful blends became the go-to secret of famous chefs and everyday cooks alike.

As a result, the cult following in natural and gourmet foods spread the demand to supermarkets, where Parsley Patch garnered shelf space next to big players like McCormick, Lawry’s, Schillings, and Mrs. Dash, who had paid high slotting allowance dividends for the supermarket shelf space.

As Parsley Patch encroached upon the expensive supermarket real estate, without paying for slotting allowances for the shelf-space, larger companies took notice. At that point in 1987, McCormick approached Parsley Patch with yet another buy-out offer.

Despite my initial opposition to the idea of selling Parsley Patch, the belief that the company would have a stronger chance of becoming a household name with McCormick’s muscle inched me onto the precipice (shall I? shall I not? Let someone else finish what I started?). That question haunted me, as the reality of having to pay for shelf-space in the supermarkets hit home and raised doubts about our ability to compete on the shelf.

So, with grave reservations, Jon and I moved to the negotiation table with McCormick, with one caveat: McCormick commit to funding our Parsley Patch Charitable Foundation from a portion of Parsley Patch sales. The charitable foundation was a cornerstone of our business and a mission we were committed to. Our desire to continue this commitment to fund our charitable donations was a bargaining chip that delayed the negotiation for months.

In 1987 the idea of including charitable-funding language into a long term contract was not popular. McCormick negotiators were concerned about negative feedback from stock holders who would balk at an ongoing charitable commitment.

Despite the stockholder doubts, the details were finally resolved. McCormick generously committed to donating a percentage of the sale of each jar to our foundation. As a result, we completed negotiations with McCormick in December 1987 and continued to run the operation until June of 1988.

However, during the transition period with McCormick, the precipice creaked again. (Shall I? Shall I not? Let someone else finish what I started?)

Ironically, my mother faced bypass surgery for her heart disease. And during her hospital discharge briefing, she was required to watch a video about how to create a healthier lifestyle. I sat horrified, watching an American Heart Association ad, which we had initiated in a promotional campaign with the Heart Association years earlier, recommending Parsley Patch Salt Free Seasonings as a healthy alternative for heart disease patients. My heart cried.

Parsley Patch was no longer mine. Now it was too late for precipices.

Now fast forward to 2012—to a new time—after starting and selling 3 businesses in between—to new opportunities for e-commerce in the Information Age Economy. Yes, the time has come to jump from the precipice (Shall I? Shall I not? Let someone else finish what I started?) once and for all. To make a final decision.

FINALLY, after watching the death of each cherished blend from the McCormick line, despite the fact our valued Parsley Patch Manager, Phyllis Usina, had stayed on with McCormick for six long years to shepherd the brand, Jon and I made the decision to reincarnate the abandoned seasonings and recreate them into an online, ORGANIC eEvolution version of our original blends. The new company is called Engage Organics.

As a result, our commitment to finish what we started couldn’t be stronger. The need for high-quality, organic salt-free spice blends have never been as important. Americans are facing serious, health issues exacerbated by unhealthy food choices.

Fortunately, healthier, organic alternatives that were not available to include in our blends in the 1980’s are now in high demand, because “organic” has gone mainstream.

Our organic eEvolution to Engage Organics wouldn’t be complete without another revision of our angel logo. Now our angel is swinging her cycle on the McFadden Farm in Potter Valley, California.

As a result of the name change, we hired Michael Fitzpatrick (the artist who transformed the original Parsley Patch label to fit a standard spice jar) to create the logo redesign. Fitzpatrick is now a much sought-after artist in the Napa Valley, http://www.

The label was transformed by Sandra Murray Design in Mill Valley, CA, into the beautiful new butcher-block labels that meld the retro feel of the old labels with an updated organic presentation. We love the transformation.

Now that you know the story of this little company with panache, I’d like to share one last snippet that makes the corners of my mouth turn up, thinking about the irony.

In January 2012, I placed an e-commerce order for Parsley Patch Garlicsaltless with (Yes, I was still able to purchase Parsley Patch after 23 years). Much to my chagrin, the Garlic & Herb blend (which was changed from the name Garlicsaltless), arrived in a Lawry’s bottle. I called Amazon, asking what happened to my order. The representative laughed, telling me everyone was calling to complain. They wanted Parsley Patch, NOT Lawry’s.

Ironically, the precipice I’d been standing on for 29 years, which began with the Lawry’s buyout offer in 1983, rumbled again (Shall I? Shall I Not? Let someone else finish what I started?)
The Garlicsaltless Blend had finally DIED, under a Lawry’s label!

The death of our beloved blend, Garlicsaltless, awakened an obligation in me to give it life again. (Yes, to finally finish what I started.)

But with this rebirth, our son, Jason Sherwood, who filled the Parsley Patch sample bags as a young boy and is a fabulous cook in his own right, became excited about the prospect of bringing back some of his favorite seasonings.

Jason is now intricately involved in the start-up phase of Engage Organics. His mission is to help finish what was started in 1980 and to carry-on the tradition for his generation and his children’s generation; so they, too, can enjoy the healthful blends in an organic rendition of our original blends.

We hope you enjoy this new Engage Organics version of our blends as much as we do. May it bring the wealth of organic health and balance to your life. Our wish is that every time you use the blends you are reminded to NEVER GIVE UP and follow your life’s purpose with determination and perseverance.

It’s never too late to keep promises to yourself!

Patti Gage