Katherine’s interest in farming began while she lived and worked in Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer 2001-03. Upon returning home, Katherine sought an apprenticeship on a small scale, sustainable vegetable farm. She discovered Tree and Leaf Farm, which she would call home for 8 years. Through farming at Tree and Leaf and learning from owner Zach Lester, she developed an enduring appreciation for and connection to plants of all kinds. After Tree & Leaf Farm, Katherine moved to the Shenandoah Valley to be farm manager at Radical Roots Farm (2012 & 2013). During this time, Katherine was also taking herbal Classes at Sacred Plant Traditions in Charlottesville. While at Radical Roots and at Sacred Plant Traditions, Gathered Threads began to take shape in Katherine’s head.
Katherine began a journey with herbs around 2005: first as a client to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, in an eventually successful effort to correct an unidentified disease (possibly Lyme); and then in 2009 when she began to grow and to study herbs more formally. In 2013, Katherine completed a 3-year course at Sacred Plant Traditions in Charlottesville, Va under herbalist Kathleen Maier, where she trained to become an herbal clinician. Her experiences there lead to her conception of Gathered Threads, a small farm-based business focused on the production and propagation of medicinal herbs for the local market area. Gathered Threads is a small farm where you can meet the grower face-to-face, and local means you can make an appointment to meet your herbs while they are still growing in the earth, soaking in the sunshine and Blue Ridge mountain air, and see the methods we use to dry and process everything.
The abundant harvests she enjoyed during her full-time work as a vegetable farmer led Katherine to experiment with both ancient and traditional methods of food preservation. Vegetables fermented naturally are an extremely healthy addition to any diet, and in many cases are more nutritious and beneficial than their raw counterparts! The basic process is simple: chop vegetables, add salt and water, and ferment until the acidity of the brine reaches a target pH level. It is similar to pickling, but instead of adding vinegar from another source, we basically produce our own, living vinegar that is filled with probiotics! What happens in the solution is that the natural bacteria and yeasts in the air and on the vegetables try to grow in the warm temperatures and wet, nutrient-rich environment. However, because we add a proper amount of salt, the growth of lactic-acid-producing yeast is overwhelmingly favored. Most bacteria can’t grow well in a high-salt environment, but these yeast can, and as the yeast multiplies it causes the solution to become increasing acidic, and almost nothing else can grow in both a salty and an acidic environment, so the food is preserved and protected from spoilage even at room temperatures! Though we do refrigerate after the brewing is complete in order to maintain a fresh taste and crisper vegetables. The one thing that can spoil a good ferment is mold, so we make sure to stir frequently while our veggies are warm and brewing. Katherine has been fermenting and experimenting with cultures since 2007. She is still is coming up with new recipes and combinations, many based on those from traditional cultures, and enjoys those golden moments when a new combination comes together!
In 2012, Katherine undertook formal studies in Foot Reflexology, which is a traditional wellness system in which the various organs of the body find corresponding regions mapped out on each person’s foot. The practice is to give a specific type of stimulating touch to the feet, while looking for and working out any areas of tightness, which acts to relieve stress on the corresponding organs. In the spring 2014, she completed her National Reflexology certification. Still wanting to learn more, Katherine began a Hand Reflexology certification course later that year.