Dave & Janet have been collaborating for more than 20 years. They met while both attending the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. From there they traveled the country, separately and together, lived for a while in San Francisco and then settled in Asheville, North Carolina in the late 1990’s. There they established a DIY community space that attracted like-minded folks from around the country. Known as “the Pink House,” the building housed a show space, an infoshop, a pirate radio station, and a community meeting and event space, in addition to being a residence for a dozen or more people at a time.
Starting in 2000, Janet & Dave began spending a part of every year in New Orleans. Inspired by the vitality of the city and wishing to contribute to its culture rather than simply absorb it, in 2004 they founded the Krewe of Eris, a grassroots Mardi Gras society that to this day throws a parade every year, open to all and featuring a marching band of about 50 members, a flag troop, floats, and hundreds of participants.
In late 2001, Janet, Dave, and a handful of friends bought 40 acres of undeveloped land in a cove hardwood forest high in the mountains of western North Carolina. There they worked to establish gardens, build infrastructure (including a large communal kitchen), and erect a house while still spending the winters in New Orleans. Since 2008 and the completion of their mud/straw house, Dave & Janet have lived on the land year-round.
It was at, and because of, their amazing forest home that their love of plants and care for their fellow creatures became the practice of herbalism, learning this art from the plants, their many teachers, and always from experience. In 2009 they joined with other local herbalists to found the Sassafras Community Health Collective, an organization dedicated to furthering grassroots herbalism and accessible, patient-centered health care.
About the same time they found their land, Janet & Dave met their friend and mentor Joe Hollis, who has been gardening and living on the same six acres since the early 1970’s. Joe’s project, Mountain Gardens, and his philosophy of Paradise Gardening, have been a guiding inspiration and model. His influence, along with the practice of herbalism itself, have helped Dave & Janet’s transition to living on the land be a natural extension of their participation in the urban DIY/punk community and their desire for social change.
Though it took many years and miles to have the perspective needed to appreciate my childhood home, I was blessed to grow up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The child of two naturalists, I spent my youth hiking around the lush forests of the Southern Appalachians, learning many of the wildflowers and other plants of this magnificent bioregion at an early age.
Moving high into these mountains as an adult brought back that feeling of enchantment I had as a child. I still wonder at the clear spring water that emerges from the rocks up the hill. I am awe-struck by the flush of spring ephemerals in April and silenced by the cackle of the pileated woodpecker throughout the year. The forest I call home has given me much, not least of all, a living apothecary to learn from and share. My direct experience of the healing power of plants has led me to practice a hands on model of herbalism. Rather than using herbs the way practitioners of conventional medicine use pharmaceuticals, I incorporate direct contact with herbs, both in the wild and in the garden, into my practice. This re-connection with Nature is a necessary component in the process of healing. My background in the DIY/punk community also informs my practice. I encourage my clients and students to wildcraft, grow and make their own medicine.
In recent years, I have increasingly focused on the use of herbal medicine for mental health. For almost a decade, I divided my time between my forest home and New Orleans, Louisiana. This decade spanned the years before and after Hurricane Katrina. The tragedy of the storm and its aftermath, along with a series of deaths in my community, led me to hold onto an inconsolable grief. Seven years after the storm, living full time on my land, I realized the pain was not going to go away on its own. I turned to herbs and through much self experimentation and study, I learned a great deal about the use of herbs to support mental health. In spring of 2014, I self-published Ease Your Mind: Herbs for Mental Health. I am grateful that I was able to draw from my own ordeal to create this much needed compendium. If you would like to read more about my booklet, click here. If you would like an herbal consultation or a garden consultation, click here.
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 free care to the mountain folks in his rural Appalachian neighborhood, most of whom would rather see an herbalist than a doctor.
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 capitalism and 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.