About the School
We connect people with plants and the earth through teaching about bioregional herbal medicine. Nurturing a sense of place and belonging, a kinship with the earth and our communities, is foundational to planetary and personal health.
Who we are and what we do
The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine was founded in 2007 by Juliet Blankespoor in Cherokee Nation territory, in what is currently known as Asheville, North Carolina, nestled in the botanically rich Southern Appalachian Mountains.
We offer numerous online opportunities to learn, including the Herbal Medicine Making Course, the Foraging Course: Edible and Medicinal Wild Herbs, and the Herbal Immersion Program. Take a peek at our Course Comparison Chart to see which learning option is the best for you! Our dedicated team of twelve serves our students and creates regular free content through our social media channels, Blog Castanea, and mini-course offerings.
Our staff identities are diverse in many ways. Some of us are LGBTQ+, mothers and caretakers, were born and have lived internationally, and we are a mostly remote staff, spread out across the east coast, midwest, and northeast. Our team is one third people of color, and our plan is to increase representation of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ staff through 2021, especially in leadership positions. Learn more about the wider Chestnut community by meeting our Instructors and Blog Contributors. Interested in working with us or learning more about our vision and work culture? Check out our Careers Page for job openings.
Our Founder and Creative Director: Juliet Blankespoor (she/her)
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’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 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 Blog Castanea and online courses. Juliet 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. Read more about her torrid affair with plants here.
Just as locally grown food is key to long-term sustainability, so is locally grown medicine. That’s why our programs and free offerings focus on growing your own herbs and enriching your life with edible and medicinal weeds. Preparing herbal medicine is a deeply satisfying and sovereign practice, and an essential aspect of all traditional cultures across the globe. Our connection to plants as medicine fastens us to the profound natural cycles of life. We’re honored to share that connection with you, and we hope it brings you joy, sustenance, and healing!
Holistic Herbalism and Social Justice
The primary mission of the school is to educate about holistic healing, a practice that acknowledges our interconnectedness. We recognize that systemic bias, racism, and discrimination affect our access, health, safety, wellbeing, and freedom. Everybody loses in a divided and discriminatory culture, especially those that are marginalized.
A healer cannot truly practice holistic herbalism without understanding the stress, violence, bias, and discrimination that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/ Questioning people (LGBTQ+) are faced with on a daily basis. If we aren’t safe–or face bias and discrimination that limits access to basic necessities and optimal health care–because of our race, religion, age, ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, then our health is affected.
We hope to inspire our students to actively work toward social and racial justice, and reduce health care disparities. Through our educational materials, social media, community giving, scholarships, and partnerships, we champion social justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, anti-racism, equity, and measures and practices that promote planetary health.
Since 2016, we’ve donated more than $430,000 through our scholarship program and partnerships with Black-led organizations focusing on food and medicine justice. We are committed to reparations. We’ve donated over $60,000 towards food insecurity relief efforts, racial and social justice, and legal defense organizations. We also donate annually to BIPOC scholarship programs offered by BIPOC-owned herbal programs and conferences.
We are currently overhauling our programs to include more diverse voices, practices, and traditions. Representation, resonance, and affinity are essential to inclusive learning and professional development. We are creating a curriculum that discusses identity, health disparities, and medical bias. We are removing gendered language in our written course content and continuing to update our materials through an equity and social justice lens. These changes will be released Spring of 2022 and in some cases sooner, if logistically possible. We have hired a full-time Director of Equity, Social Justice, and Community Engagement, Sarah Nuñez, who is leading our efforts in this direction.
What Sets us Apart
We’re Here Because of our Students: We prioritize student support through timely technical and instructional assistance. This means if you are our student, we will answer your questions within 24 hours (during the work week) and assist you with technical issues during our off hours so you don’t ever lose valuable access to your study materials. We are constantly adding new technical features and fresh educational materials to our programs. Students have life-time access to our program, so they are continually receiving upgrades. Our students are ALWAYS our top priority and our reputation is a testimony to our integrity in timely communication and customer service. Don’t just take our word for it, check out their testimonials and Google reviews.
Silliness, Beauty, and Personality Keep Things Lively: Our high-quality educational materials are filled with beauty, inspiration, humor, and clear instruction. We know online learning is inherently challenging so we engage all types of learners through diverse media (visual, written, oral, hands-on, closed captioning) and content review.
Economic Activism for Our Staff: We don’t f*#$ around when it comes to self-care, rest, or rejuvenation. We are a small, tight-knit team and we want our employees to happily stay with us until they retire (or their dreams call them elsewhere). We promote wholeness through careful planning (to spread the load and minimize tight deadlines) and by offering six weeks of paid vacation/sick leave, plus 2 months of paid parental leave, a health care stipend, and a green 401-K. We invest in each team member’s professional development and require annual diversity, equity, and anti-racism training. We also contribute to our employee’s financial well-being by offering above-average salaries and profit-sharing bonuses. Our leadership team understands, exemplifies, and strives to prioritize flexibility in balancing work with the care of our families and our emotional and physical health.
Economic Activism as a Fresh Model for Capitalism: We transform our revenue and profits into employee benefits, community giving, scholarships, and reparations. Since 2016, we’ve donated over half a million dollars toward need-based BIPOC and LGBTQ+ scholarships; community giving for food & medicine justice; reparations; and sponsorships. We understand the power money carries and channel that energy for the benefit of our staff, their families, and our communities. We prioritize revenue (inviting the flow of green power through our channels) because we know this will improve our student’s experience and strengthen our communities. Women and femmes have been raised in a patriarchal mindset where ambition and financial success are looked down upon as selfish or frivolous. We reject this nonsense. Instead, we celebrate our ambition, success, creativity, and generosity. And know that when women and femmes win, we all win.