Farmer Profile: Lisa Bedner/Pipsissewa Herbs By Allison Fox

What's the difference between an herb and a weed? According to Lisa Bedner, "A weed is an herb that is growing in the wrong place and you haven't figured out what to do with it yet." A certified medical herbalist and member of the Native American Teehahnahmah nation, Lisa is the owner and operator of Pipsissewa Herbs, specializing in medicinal herbs and native species. She lives on and takes care of the farm with her husband and helpmate, Stephen.

Flourishing in spring and summer, Pipsissewa Herbs features several beautiful display gardens and production herb beds. The farm is part of Cherokee Medicine Woods, a historically rich source of herbal plants where Native Americans foraged for medicinal herbs in times past. "A lot of the things I grow and sell are comparatively rare. I get people that will come from up to 500 miles away for plant material," Lisa says. The area has been declared an Endangered Plant Sanctuary by the United Plant Savers. Growing everything from Angelica to Milk Thistle, the land even boasts one of the largest cultivated stinging nettle patches in the state. All plants and seeds here are organically grown with no chemical pesticides or fertilizers; vermicompost is used to saturate the soil with nutrients.

Lisa is a Native American Medical Herbalist according to the only certifying organization in the United States, the American Herbalists Guild. Her path to herbal medicine began in the early 1980s when she grew tired of big-city living and returned to Tennessee. She began seriously studying herbal medicine after her brown recluse bites were successfully treated by a Cherokee medicine man. At that point she realized, "Grandma was right." She studied with this medicine man and other herbal medicine practitioners, relearning many things she had forgotten from her grandmothers and grandfathers. Initially planning only to make herbal medicines for herself and members of her tribe, she later began growing herbs and saving her seeds when she realized how difficult it was to find the rare herbs she needed at area nurseries.

Lisa was gifted with the name "Pipsissewa" by a grandfather because of her work with greenhouses (pipsissewa is a small perennial plant that stays green all winter). Today she is brimming with herbal knowledge and history and grows over 150 different herbs on her farm.

After working as an ER and trauma nurse for 40 years in cities all over the United States, Lisa retired from the nursing profession in January. She can now devote her time to her herbs: growing and selling them, making medicines, and sharing her knowledge with those who are interested in the potent power of plants. Throughout the growing season, she offers tours of her display gardens and greenhouses. She also hosts hands-on workshops and seminars covering topics such as herb growing, making medicines, and nutrition education. She conducts private Native American healing consultations by appointment, as well as plant identification services on private property.

Look for Pipsissewa Herbs at the Cookeville Farmers' Market this season!

Pipsissewa Herbs is located in Bloomington Springs, Tennessee. For more information, visit or call Lisa at 931-653-4402.

Allison Fox is a food enthusiast and bonne vivante in Cookeville, Tennessee.