2019 Medicinal Plant Conservation Award

— Recipient —

JULIET BLANKESPOOR

by Emily Ruff

“Gathering medicine and food from the wild connects us to the natural world, our ancestral heritage, and our wild animal selves. Being involved in our sustenance and healing is boldly empowering and ties us into simple living and the change of the seasons. By gathering our own medicines carefully and conscientiously, we can be assured that our medicines are fresh, of high quality, and gathered in a sustainable fashion.” — Juliet Blankespoor

Juliet Blankespoor
Juliet Blankespoor

Juliet Blankespoor, director and primary instructor of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Medicinal Plant Conservation Award.

Juliet has been sharing her passion for plants for over twenty-five years through herbalism and botany education, with a degree in botany from the University of Florida. Through her school’s involvement in the UpS Partner in Education, Juliet has demonstrated a depth of commitment as a plant steward by not only engaging her students with a curriculum that promotes responsible wild-crafting and regenerative herb cultivation, but she directly sponsors a UpS membership for students enrolled in her Online Herbal Immersion Program.

In addition to sponsoring student memberships, Juliet’s website is rich with practical plant stewardship resources for anyone looking to grow deeper roots in their plant relationships. Through blog articles such as “Foraging for Wild Edibles and Herbs: Sustainable and Safe Gathering Practices,” “Cultivating Medicinal Herbs, with a Focus on At-Risk Woodland Medicinals,” and “Growing Medicinal Herbs from Seed,” Juliet provides practical advice and time-tested techniques for novice and experienced herbalists alike to embrace the nuances of relationship with our ecology and how we can honor and respect the plants whose communities are threatened.

These heady titles belie the inspirational wordsmithing therein—Juliet offers technical knowledge through the lens of her relationship with the plants, which always captures the beauty of the green world. Her voice makes clear the depth of her intimacy with the wild magic of plants and sparks a reminder of the humbling healing potential of the plant-human connection. With stunning videos and photos, her artistic eye brings each reader and student into the green world in a way rarely found alongside such practical scientific teachings.

Juliet’s generous philanthropy-in-practice does not stop there. Her school sponsors restorative justice and ecological harmony in the plant world along with nine other organizations, such as One Million Redwoods Project, Organic Growers School, and Plants and Healers International (whose director, Marc Williams, was the recipient of this award in 2016). In addition to promoting responsible plant stewardship, Juliet also supports the herbalist community by continuously providing access to free educational resources, and also by awarding 8+ annual scholarships through non-profit partners, such as Grow Where You Are, Harriet’s Apothecary, and Soul Fire Farm, as well as 90 enrollments to date through her own need-based diversity scholarship program.

Juliet founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She’s been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She’s 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.

These days, she channels her botanical obsession with writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She’s writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. These days, she channels her botanical obsession with writing and photography in her online programs and her blog, Castanea.

Her photographs, videos, and writings can be found at chestnutherbs.com, along with her school’s Online Herbal Immersion Program—the most in-depth course available on cultivating medicinal herbs and at-risk medicinals.