Terra Sylva combines the experience of herbalists who’ve done their work in very different regions: rural Appalachia and the city of New Orleans. Dave Meesters and Janet Kent founded and run Medicine County Herbs in the mountains of North Carolina and publish the Radical Vitalism blog, while Jen Stovall is one of the herbalists behind the Crescent City’s Maypop Community Herb Shop. Despite the geographical separation, this team have been partners in herbalism for over a decade, going back to the first herb classes Jen & Dave taught together in New Orleans in 2004. The Terra Sylva School fulfills a dream we’ve nurtured for a long time, to meld our diverse strengths and perspectives to create a comprehensive, dynamic program well-suited to equip and inspire the next generation of herbalists to practice in the 21st century. Our teaching reflects both Janet & Dave’s land-based herbalism practiced in a rural setting and Jen’s experience caring for folks in the big city.
Jen Stovall grew up in the North Georgia piedmont and spent her summers in the Southern Appalachians surrounded by the verdant abundance of medicinal plants. Although she didn’t know it at the time, some of those plants would grow to be some of her most significant allies. Driven and inspired by her thirst for autodidactic education, she left Georgia at seventeen and traveled extensively throughout the US and internationally. As the wind blew her hither and thither, she became entranced by the beauty and mysteries of plant medicine and sought more formal training with many amazing teachers including 7song, Michael Moore, Phyllis D. Light, Patricia Kyritsi Howell, and DeAnna Batdorff.
In 2004, Jen moved to New Orleans, a city permeated by the fragrances of Jasmine and Sweet Olive, and where the plants grow in wild abandon, taking over anything in their path. She has spent the years since then learning to love the swamp and getting to know the sub-tropical plants that grow in it. In 2011, Jen opened the collectively run Maypop Community Herb Shop, which many people in the community rely on as their primary source of healthcare. She also graduated with a BSN-RN from Louisiana State University School of Nursing and obtained her NADA Ear Acupuncture Detox Specialist & Trainer license, both of which continue to inform her herbal practice.
At present, Jen works as a Community Herbalist & Health Educator, using a blend of Southern Folk Medicine, Western Herbalism, and harm reduction in her classes and with her clients. She has found herbalism to be both a potent tool for pursuing social justice in the world, and a powerful manifestation of the ethical and ideological path she walks in her personal life. She believes that health care should be accessible to everyone and that the most powerful strategy for this is educating and empowering people to choose their own path to health. She is constantly renewed and inspired by witnessing the magic spark that occurs when people are introduced to plant allies through consultations, herb walks, medicine making, & health education.
Janet Kent is a clinical and community herbalist, educator, gardener and writer. The child of two naturalists, Janet grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, learning the amazing diversity of regional wild flowers at an early age. She began studying the medicinal uses of plants when she moved to a rich Appalachian cove high in the mountains of Madison county, North Carolina fifteen years ago. She did not set out to become an herbalist, but as she learned over the years in her forest home, if we are open, we do not change the land we inhabit as much as it changes us. The transformative healing power of the plants around her turned an interest into a calling.
The vast power to heal through reconnection is the medicine she most seeks to share. Whenever possible, she encourages her students and clients to grow their own herbs, to make their own medicine, and most of all, to experience the more-than-human world first hand. Here is where deep, foundational healing is most profound.
Janet views herbal medicine as a means of reconnecting to the long tradition of plant medicine in rural Appalachia. This tradition has become more relevant with the ailing state of the dominant health care system and the rising cost of herbal medicine. Janet considers herbalism the best option for addressing injustice in health care. Herbalists, being outside the biomedical system, can avoid its inequalities. Affordable care, medicine and education are central to this paradigm.
In addition to being co-founder and a core faculty member at the Terra Sylva School of Botanical Medicine, Janet also runs a medicinal and native plant nursery, apothecary and blog, Medicine County Herbs with Dave.
Dave Meesters grew up in Miami, Florida and attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He moved to Asheville, North Carolina in the winter of 1998. In 2003, his formal herbal training began with an apprenticeship with CoreyPine Shane at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine, and since then his experience has included organizing and staffing a free clinic in New Orleans in the months after hurricane Katrina, and starting and practicing at a free clinic in Asheville’s homeless day shelter. Dave has plans to be involved with another herbal free or low-cost clinic in the future, but until then he sees clients privately and provides care to the mountain folks in his rural Appalachian neighborhood, most of whom would rather see an herbalist than a doctor.
Since 2013, Dave has, with Janet, been director and primary instructor at the Terra Sylva School’s summer apprenticeship program, which was held on the communal mountain land where he resides before the school moved to Marshall. He and Janet are the founders of Medicine County Herbs, an herb apothecary, medicinal plant nursery, and blog.
Dave sees herbalism as a way to provide a more appropriate, accessible, pleasurable, and effective form of health care than the dominant model, and as a means to bond and integrate ourselves with plants, the garden, and the wilds. His herbalism is wedded to a life-long resistance to the forces of domination and alienation, especially domination of and alienation from Nature. His practice and his teaching reflect a deep evolving holism attained by listening to, honoring, embracing, and collaborating with the whole of Nature, and by his study of the threads connecting holistic physiology, energetics, ecology, gardening, systems theory, magic, alchemy and permaculture.