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About Us

Virginia Plant Savers was started in 2003 by Kathleen Maier (with some of her students, principally Deborah Gunn) and Jeff McCormack. It is a volunteer organization with a mission to protect native medicinal plants of Virginia and their native habitat, while ensuring and promoting the renewable supply of medicinal plants through education, research, and the promotion and construction of medicinal plant sanctuaries.

Biographies of the principal founding members are as follows:

Kathleen Maier, AHG, PA

Kathleen Meier

Kathleen was introduced to herbal medicines while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile in 1978. She has studied with indigenous cultures in Belize, Mexico and Costa Rica. She spent seven months researching botanicals of the Burren, County Clare, Ireland. Kathleen graduated from Hahnemann Medical School's Physician Assistant program and teaches physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals. She has had a private practice for almost twenty years, is a Reiki III teacher and lectures nationally at symposia and conferences. As a devoted member of the United Plant Savers, Kathleen is currently working on the creation of sacred space, and botanical sanctuaries in "downtown" landscapes.

Jeff McCormack, Ph.D.

Jeff McCormack

Jeff was introduced to ethnobotany while a graduate student in natural products chemistry and pollination ecology. He taught and conducted research in physiological plant ecology at Middlebury College and the University of Virginia. During that time he also worked in solar greenhouse design and management, and established protocols for ecological pest management in greenhouses. He founded Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in 1983, and Garden Medicinals and Culinaries in 1996. He also served as a board member on the Seed Savers Exchange from 1986 to 1993. Jeff has authored articles on topics related to ecological pest management and genetic conservation, and has edited books on seed saving and the culinary use of herbs. Jeff has conducted workshops on ecological seed production for the Mid-Atlantic region, and has written a series of manuals on organic seed production for the Mid-Atlantic and southern U.S. Some of his writings have been incorporated into his Saving our Seeds website. He recently published a book titled: Bush Medicine of the Bahamas: A Cross-cultural Perspective from San Salvador Island, including Pharmacology and Oral Histories. The book features a companion website, Bahama Bush Medicine.

Deborah Gunn

Debborah Gunn

Herbalist, gardener, and wise-woman, Deborah Gunn has been growing and using herbs for over 30 years. Her herbal studies include workshops with some of our premier herbalists and three years of clinical experience and courses through Dreamtime Center for Herbal Studies and Sacred Traditions. In the 90's, she and her sister, Hope, started a company together called Hillside Herbs through which they designed and created a unique aromatherapy product and ran a retail store in Charlottesville. Deborah now works as a full-time estate gardener growing a variety of medicinal, edible, and ornamental plants organically, as well as tending to bee hives and chickens. For her next major project, she plans to create a UPS sanctuary on her recently purchased 26 acres of woods and wetland.

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