Herbal Skills Immersion

Seasonal Retreats for Climate Justice Activism

Come to any or all of these.

2020 Dates:

Spring: May 29-31

Skin & Wound Care

Summer: August 28-30

The Art & Science of Herbal Teas

Fall: October 23-25

Nutritive Herbs & Bitter Roots

Winter: December 11-13

Herbal Spa and Winter Immune Support

For the 2020 growing season, MEI will be joined by clinically trained community herbalist Katherine Elmer of Spoonful Herbals and Railyard Apothecary. Katherine brings an enthusiasm for deep healing, in place, through nature connection. Plant medicine is one of many paths for remembering that we are “of nature” through healing our body, mind and spirit so that we may more fully participate in the life we are blessed to live on this Earth.

We are living in potent times, and our partnership with Katherine and Spoonful Herbals is a sacred healing collaboration to engage our shared work in a time of climate emergency and social injustice.

Katherine will be joined by herbalism intern Emma Radeka and Seneca Medicine Keeper Carl Brokenhorse Koehler as we deepen our plant medicine stewardship efforts in the 2020 growing season. Join us as we weave sacred plant medicine deeper into the fabric of our bodies and communities.

Wellness Sovereignty

Wellness Sovereignty is the right to healthcare tools and resources that align with your values, budget, and location. For our partners at Spoonful Herbals, this looks like a community of individuals who know and trust the plant medicines in their backyards and natural areas, and have the skills to transform them into home remedies for themselves and their families in alignment with the principles of sustainability and the honorable harvest. Join us for any or all of these herbal immersion weekends to explore and claim your Wellness Sovereignty intentions and develop concrete skills to harvest and prepare herbal medicines for yourself, your family and your community.

Common Weekend Retreat Elements Include:

  • Experiences and ceremony to align our bodies and spirits with the unique energetic rhythms of the seasons and the plant medicines being offered on the landscape
  • Council-based discussions about Climate Justice and Activism with and inspired by medicinal plant allies
  • Basic kitchen medicine-making skills to grow our wellness sovereignty and build capacity to lower our carbon footprint through responsible and systematic disconnection from reliance on pharmaceutical medicine
  • Nourishing “food as medicine” meals to demonstrate and build a foundation for whole-food, place-based nutrition practices
  • Contributing to herbal justice activism through gleaning medicinal plants and preparing medicines in service with those currently underserved by herbal medicine and access to clean green medicine lands

Spring Herbal Skills Immersion—Skin & Wound Care

May 29-31

Friday 4pm-Sunday 2pm

The energy of spring invites us to awaken to our inner guide(s) and burst forth—in service to ourselves and our communities—like a vibrant, green sprouts breaking through their seed coats and reaching for the sun. We will explore the benefits of spring tonic herbs and whole foods nutrition to awaken and support the body’s intrinsic vitality and “spark,” unleashing and focusing our unique offerings as activists and earth lovers. Join Community Herbalists Katherine Elmer (Celtic/Nordic) and Carl Brokenhorse Koehler (Haudenosaunee/Seneca) for an introduction to medicine making from two indigenous lineages and go home with a tin of first aid salve made from healing plants harvested from the land in community. All Herbal Immersion weekends will feature the general retreat elements featured above.

Summer Herbal Skills Immersion—The Art & Science of Herbal Teas

August 28-30

Friday 4pm-Sunday 2pm

Join us to celebrate and savor the delicate flavors of summer and the abundance of flowers and fruits as we enter the harvest season. This weekend’s medicine-making skill building will center on the art and science of herbal tea blending for flavor and healing benefits, and simple strategies for transforming flowers and berries into artisan beverages such as spritzers and herbal mocktails. All Herbal Immersion weekends will feature the general retreat elements featured above.

Fall Herbal Skills Immersion—Nutritive Herbs & Bitter Roots

October 23-25

Friday 4pm-Sunday 2pm

Fall offers us an opportunity to move inward with reflection as we prepare to store energy for the winter like the roots that we harvest during this time. It is also the time when we put our gardens to bed, showing our gratitude and care for the plants and the earth that sustain us throughout the seasons. This weekend focuses on consuming plants as nourishing food and medicine to deepen your relationship to the natural environment while nourishing yourself and preventing disease. Basic principles of therapeutic herbalism and whole food nutrition will be covered in the context of modern public health challenges and simple solutions from your land and kitchen. All Herbal Immersion weekends will feature the general retreat elements featured above.

Winter Herbal Skills Immersion—Herbal Spa and Winter Immune Support

December 11-13

Friday 4pm-Sunday 2pm

The quiet stillness of the winter months offers us the gift of slowing down, deeply listening to ourselves and the earth, and ample time to make medicines from what we have gathered during the warmer seasons. Winter is an opportunity to lean into the pleasure activism* of nourishment in the form of foot baths, luscious body butters, and cozy long conversations with the comfort of a hot mug of tea. Medicine making skills in the winter weekend will focus on key herbal strategies to prevent and relieve symptoms of common winter ailments including immune boosting remedies such as elderberry syrup and fire cider. All Herbal Immersion weekends will feature the general retreat elements featured above.

*Pleasure activism is a phrase and movement popularized by Adrienne Marie Brown and the title of her new edited book published in 2019. Check it out, it’s amazing and life/movement-changing.



Katherine Elmer

Katherine Elmer, MS grew up in the green hills of Central Vermont and revels in the opportunity to connect with clients around a shared love of place and nature through whole foods nutrition and herbal medicine. She is a clinically-trained community herbalist and lecturer on Herbal Medicine, Integrative Health and Food Systems topics at the University of Vermont.

She has a Master’s in Natural Resources from UVM and has completed professional training through the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism. Katherine manages medicinal plant gardens on UVM campus and is the faculty advisor for the UVM student Herbalism Club. She also teaches regular community classes and herb walks in the Burlington area.

Katherine is the co-founder of the Burlington Herb Clinic at the Railyard Apothecary as well as an educational organization called Spoonful Herbals, which offers a local Herbal CSA share program, a Community Herbalism Apprenticeship, “Backyard Apothecary” consultations to farmers and homesteaders, and medicinal plant gleaning events (“Herb Mobs”) on area organic farms and public green spaces.

She is a proud mom to a 9-year-old son Liam, a 10-year-old labradoodle Maatje (pronounced Mott-yeh), and she lives in Burlington’s Old North End.

Gillian Kapteyn Comstock

Gillian Kapteyn Comstock, MA, is the founding co-director of Metta Earth Institute and the Metta Earth project, which integrates regenerative farming, contemplative practices, community living, and sustainability education. Gillian offers mentoring, program facilitation, and leadership trainings.

As a holistic psychotherapist, certified permaculture designer, and advanced yoga guide, she synthesizes disciplines to support cultural renewal. She is dedicated to creating sanctuaries for others to experience vibrant presence.

With a passion for discovering the wild in mind, body, and earth, she has led yoga retreats, wilderness quests, and trainings in nature sanctuaries around the world.

For the last dozen years Gillian has intertwined this work with grounding in regenerative agriculture and focalizes this in the care of gardens and greenhouses, carbon farming and grazing processes with Icelandic sheep, Milking Shorthorn cows, and heritage breed chickens, as well as the growing and wildcrafting of herbal teas and medicines.

For more than two decades she has been a participant in the Assisi Institute community, which engages in a highly dynamic interdisciplinary investigation of Jungian psychology, creative process, mythology, and the new sciences.

A mother of three adult children and grandmother of five, Gillian has lived a life immersed in cooperative community, the gift economy, and innovative social processes resonate with natural systems and wild nature.

Emma Radeka

Emma Radeka is a senior at the University of Vermont, pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies, a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and a certificate in Integrative Healthcare. Her areas of academic study reflect her passion for healing the earth, ourselves, and our communities, with a focus on pleasure activism, gift economy, and ecological leadership.

During her two years of studying herbalism, Emma has interned with Spoonful Herbals, been a Teaching Assistant to Katherine Elmer’s UVM Plant-Based Healing Medicine course, and risen to a position of leadership within the UVM Herbalism Club.

Emma has eight years of education experience, including teaching dance classes, ski lessons, plant medicine workshops, and holding a Teaching Assistant role five times over during her college career. She is currently completing her capstone project in the Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, which is focused on place-based education. As a TA for an intro-level natural resources course in which she facilitates outdoor labs, and an outdoor educator for an after-school program at Flynn Elementary School, she will compare the pedagogy of both programs and the quality of learning that occurs as a result of assessment and structure vs. active free play.

In the spring of 2019, Emma participated in an immersive 4-month study abroad program in rural Costa Rica that focused on permaculture, sustainable development, tropical ecology, and community organizing for environmental justice.

Emma lives in the Old North End of Burlington and is an avid salsa dancer and skier. Her post-grad dreams include hiking the Long Trail, attending the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, becoming a midwife, and exploring regenerative agriculture and shamanism in South America.

Carl BrokenHorse Koehler

BrokenHorse is an author and historian; sacred activist and medicine keeper of European and Seneca/Haudenosaunee (Ho-den-o-son-ee) descent. He has been studying indigenous medicine for over 20 years.

Coming from a long line of peacemakers and great orators, BrokenHorse uses the written and spoken word and the power of indigenous tradition to decolonize, rematriate, and heal.


Includes meals, shared accommodation, & program administration:

Spring: May 29-31—Skin & Wound Care
By Donation for a Gift Economy

Summer: August 28-30—The Art & Science of Herbal Teas
By Donation for a Gift Economy

Fall: October 23-25—Nutritive Herbs & Bitter Roots
By Donation for a Gift Economy

Winter: December 11-13—Herbal Spa and Winter Immune Support
By Donation for a Gift Economy

Be Part of a Gift Economy Project

Metta Earth is interested in economic processes that create paradigm CHANGE. We we would like the Herbal Skills Immersion to move into an exploration of gift economy versus modern capitalism. Tapping into the wisdom of earth connected cultures, we see this as a form of radical activism, a change of narrative from the current systems that are creating enormous social injustices. Inspired by the Buddhist tradition of dana (donation) we want to actualize regenerative processes together.

A donation for each of the Herbal Skills Immersion retreats supports a gift economy practice.

Please attune to your capacity to make a donation.

Gifts in kind are possible also.

Please note that each of these weekend retreats cost $100 for food, $100 for lodging, and $100 for program. If you can donate more than this, others are supported who need to donate less.

Metta Earth and Spoonful Herbals are approved organizations for students to apply grants the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC).


Metta Earth is nestled in the quietude of the mountains, the stunning headwaters of the New Haven river with abundant waterfalls and pools for swimming, wilderness trails to walk or bike, and 158 acres of Metta Earth land to explore. The nearest town is Lincoln, VT (see full directions).


Image 2 (9)Meals are vegetarian and lovingly prepared with seasonal, local and organic foods. Much of our food comes from our own organic garden and farmstead. Participants have the opportunity to learn about harvesting, cooking, food storage, and other aspects of organic local food.


Options for sleeping accommodations feature peaceful rooms in the main Metta Earth house. The Metta Earth main house provides bathrooms, laundry, phones, wireless internet, library, kitchen and dining facilities, and teaching, study, and practice space.


“I have great faith in the power of herbal medicine to heal not only people, but also culture, species, and ecology. It’s really pretty simple: we need plants in our lives. Even only a little bit.
And once their green tendrils begin to grow in our hearts, like the first pea vines of spring, there is no turning back.
Thank goodness – thank greenness.”

– Guido Masé, Herbalist (co-founder of Railyard Apothecary and the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism; Herbalist and Senior Scientist at Traditional Medicinals)


Railyard Apothecary

Railyard Apothecary is Burlington’s local herbal apothecary. We are a non-profit organization with a primary goal to provide high-quality, affordable medicinal herbs and health education to the Burlington community and beyond. All of our herbs are from organic and/or sustainable sources, either from local farms and forests or from international organic distributors. By partnering with local farmers, wild-crafters, and educators, we hope to serve as a hub for the herbal community in Northern Vermont.

We are committed to creating a space for the community and ourselves where we can work towards healing cultural wounds. Through herbal justice, we strive to create a space where shifts in habits, systems, and thinking can move away from white supremacy, patriarchy, and wasteful consumerism and towards respect for people and the planet, inclusivity, and listening to historically silenced voices, with the goal of contributing to a world in which people are respected as individuals, and can thrive. Find us on Facebook or Instagram.

Spoonful Herbals

Spoonful Herbals is the collaborative effort of community herbalists and educators Katherine Elmer and Kara Buchanan.

Spoonful offers an annual Herbal CSA, which includes 3 seasonal herbal self-care packages, all for $150, with convenient share pickup at Railyard Apothecary:

  • each providing 4-5 varied formulas
  • detailed educational guidance about the plant ingredients and their users
  • educational events for members

Spoonful also runs a 6-month Community Herbalism Apprenticeship program where students learn how to identify, harvest, and create remedies from native and locally-grown medicinal herbs.

Spoonful’s Herb Mob program engages volunteers to bring locally harvested (gleaned) medicinal plants into our apothecary from local organic farms and green spaces. Find us on Facebook and Instagram.