The Core of Chestnut School

Meet Team Chestnut

The Chestnut School is woman-owned and primarily women/femme-powered. We are a dynamic team of passionate souls, relishing a life infused with all the bright flavors of the plant world.

We tend to our work like the garden it is—watering our endeavors with devotion and hope, cheering each other on to flower and fruit, and growing companionably with the shared intention to nourish those who are called to study alongside us.

Scroll down to learn about the school’s core characters. Please see our Instructor page to meet our stellar teachers and course contributors, and visit our About the School page to learn more about the Chestnut School. If you enjoy the luscious library of articles on our blog, you can read up on our wonderful writers via our Blog Contributors page.

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Juliet Blankespoor (she/her)

Founder • Visionary • Creative Director

Juliet is a card-carrying plant geek who channels her plant obsessions through writing, photography, and herb gardening, along with a sizable houseplant predilection. She is an ambitious entrepreneur–her earliest enterprise was a get-rich-quick-scheme involving papaya trees (a monumental flop, on all accounts). Juliet’s been sharing her passion for plants for over twenty-five years, and has owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school. After graduating from University of Florida with a degree in botany, Juliet continued her studies by attending programs at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine, the California School of Herbal Studies and the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. Her herbal teachers and lineage include 7Song, James Snow and the legendary herbalist Michael Moore, now an ancestor.

Juliet founded the Chestnut School in 2007 and embarked on her writing career with the Blog Castanea in 2011. After many years of teaching intensive, all-outdoor herbal programs, Juliet has finally accepted she’s a raging introvert and her teachings are best suited to the virtual sphere, including her online courses. She has steered the school’s focus toward bioregional herbalism from its onset and is now shepherding it towards holistic herbalism and social justice. Leading the school is her biggest inspiration for personal growth, and the enterprise serves as fertile ground for economic activism.

Juliet abhors chaos, injustice, and small-mindedness to the point of fist-clenching moments of potty-mouth proportions. On a good day, she exhales, unfurls her palms, and creates beauty through art and compassion. Most importantly, she wears pink on the daily as an amulet to hard-heartedness and as a rose-torch of hope for humanity. Her first book – The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies will be published in April 2022.

Kathryn Blau (she/her)

Integrator • Operations Manager

Kathryn grew up in Chapel Hill, NC and got hooked on all things gardening, homesteading, herbalism, and permaculture after moving to Asheville in 2006. Her initial introduction to herbs was through the lens of Ayurveda while participating in a yoga training, and she later studied Chinese herbalism while working at an acupuncture clinic. She is deeply enamored with herbalism and the incredible abundance of native and wild medicinals found in the Appalachian Mountains. She is equally passionate about social justice and the intersections of herbalism and equity. Kathryn lives with her partner and daughter outside of Asheville.

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Sarah Nuñez (she/her/Ella)

Director of Equity, Social Justice, & Community Engagement

Sarah’s focus with the school is to increase efforts, internally and externally, that co-create policies, cultures, and programs of equity and social justice for the school, staff, students, and communities served. Sarah was born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in North Carolina. She’s a cultural worker and healer, weaving storytelling, art, hierbas, and movement building throughout her work and organizing. She is one of the founders of Aflorar Herb Collective which provides herbal community care and support to organizers, activists, and nurturers across the county. Sarah is passionate about student and family engagement, and using healing, art, and organizing modalities as avenues for transformative change. Sarah holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from Western Carolina University as well as a Bachelor’s of Art in Interdisciplinary Studies from UNC-Asheville.  She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in Counseling and Personnel Services (College Student Personnel) from the University of Louisville.

Renee Conover (she/her)

Education Programming & Project Manager

Renee’s herbal adventures began in southeast Asia, where she traveled extensively for three years. Then, in 2003, she landed in western NC to study permaculture at Earthaven Ecovillage and herbalism at the North Carolina School of Holistic Herbalism (now ASHH), where she met Juliet, founder of the Chestnut School. After herb school, Renee spent fifteen years weaving her magic as the programming and production coordinator at the Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference. She now enthusiastically brings her programming and people skills to the Chestnut School. Renee also brings a social justice lens to any work that she does, as she believes that none of us can be truly free until all of us are free. Renee lives in west Asheville where she enjoys dancing and hiking with her partner, cooking for her son, cuddling with her puppy, and gardening solo.

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Carrie Faye Harder (she/her)

Website & Design Project Manager

Carrie Faye bounced around the globe as a child, but the lush landscape and equally colorful people of Western North Carolina won her over in 2002. She’s an avid lover of music and the arts and is sweet on graphic design. She’s currently delighted to be building her herbal knowledge and will one day apply it to her own WNC homestead.

Amanda Davis (she/her)

Website & Technology Project Manager

Born in New York, NY and raised in the shadow of the Ramapo Mountains, Amanda has cultivated a deep love for technology, nature, design and plant-based living.

Amanda is a lifelong learner, hardcore gamer, canyon hiker, and accomplished quad skater. She is currently living in Metro Detroit, on the ancestral land of the Anishinaabe people, and enjoying an urban lifestyle with her high-maintenance chihuahua, but her heart is always in the forest.

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Meghan Gemma

Meghan Gemma (she/her)

Social Media Coordinator • Writer • Instructor

Meghan one of the Chestnut School’s primary instructors through her written lessons, and is the principal pollinator of the school’s social media community—sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of the school to an ever-wider field of herbalists, gardeners, healers, and plant lovers.

She has been in a steady relationship with the Chestnut School since 2010—as an intern and manager at the Chestnut Herb Nursery; as a plant-smitten student “back in the day” when the school’s programs were taught in the field; and later as a part the school’s woman-powered professional team. Meghan lives in the Ivy Creek watershed, just north of Asheville, North Carolina.

Christine Borosh (she/her)

Student Services Specialist

Christine grew up in suburban Chicago playing in the seemingly expansive woods behind her childhood home. She fell deeper in love with the magic of the natural world as a teenager while participating in wilderness backpacking trips. This love of nature led her to sustainable agriculture work on organic farms in Alaska, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, and Washington. Christine studied at the Chestnut School in 2013 and is thrilled to be back as a part of the Chestnut team to support our students in their herbal learning. Christine currently resides in the magical driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, the ancestral land of the Ho Chunk Nation, with her partner, daughter, and wild rescue pup. They dream of creating an abundant homestead with animals and all kinds of edible and medicinal plants in the near future.

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Sarah Sorci (she/her)

Student Services Specialist

Sarah Sorci grew up near the Lake Erie shores of Buffalo, New York and is happy to be back in her home region. She lives with her husband on six acres in the Allegheny foothills, the homeland of the Seneca Nation. With a degree in Environmental Studies, sustainability fuels Sarah’s love for local, homegrown herbalism. She is a long-time fan of the Chestnut School and is thrilled to work with a team that is so garden- and botany-minded.
After completing a Holistic Herbalism program with the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine in 2014, Sarah headed home to start Sweet Flag Herbs, offering local classes and consultations.  She loves connecting with the WNY herbal community as an Herbalists Without Borders chapter co-coordinator. Sarah is also jazzed about her writing project, A Nourishing Harvest, where she explores topics that support the safe, toxin-informed harvest of food and medicine.

Jessica Janoff (she/her)

Student Services Specialist

Jessica is a North Carolina native from near the coast in Greenville, NC. Most people are hyperbolic when they say they’ve ‘always’ been interested in their field of choice. At 8 she pulled a pathophysiology book off a Dean’s office shelf, enamored with it, thrilled to keep it, and interest ignited in healing and science. Now Jessica lives in Midcoast, Maine, within the Nanrantsouak territory within the Wabanaki Confederacy, with her husband and three boys in an old farmhouse she fills with plants, tinctures, and one day a poison garden.

Five years spent as an herbalist with vast knowledge in product development led Jessica to start Nourished Earth Apothecary to provide one on one services to clinical clients seeking herbal remedies for chronic ailments, physical conditions, and allergies. Ten years of providing support to students in college and laboratory work while obtaining her Biochemistry degree from North Carolina State University shaped her dedication to academic achievement and investment across many ages and education levels. Jessica serves her clients, and community with a blend of Eastern and Western herbalism perfectly through equanimity, accessibility, and advocacy.

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Amber Brown

Amber Brown (she/her)

Executive/Personal Assistant • Scholarship Coordinator

Amber Brown is a Native Alaskan from the Tlingit & Haida tribe of southeast Alaska and the Nisga of British Columbia. She grew up in Homer, Alaska in the house her father built, processing salmon, picking berries, learning to bead necklaces and earrings and watching her grandmother dance in the Naa Kahidi dance group in Sitka, Alaska. In 2009 she migrated from her ancestral home in the far north of Alaska to reside in the rich mountainous fold of the Cherokee Nation territory, in what is currently known as western North Carolina, where she currently homesteads with her partner and their three spritely children. Amber and her family are passionate about wild foods and medicine, as well as native trees and forest medicinals that promote longterm health of the land. Amber is a concoctress of wild food delicacies and puts her culinary expertise to the test at the Chestnut School by helping to create and test herbal and wild foods recipes. She also supports her team with recipe development, modeling and photography assistance, and various administrative tasks. Amber is also the Scholarship Coordinator for the school. In addition to her passion for wild food and arts, she’s also adept at gathering and propagating local plants and minerals and makes small-batch, seasonal tinctures, potions, and brews. Visit @glorius.forest to learn more about Amber and her creations.