At Rising Fawn Gardens, we are stewards of nature who are devoted to protecting the land, farming sustainably, and building an enduring community that fosters education and wellness.
Rising Fawn is a small community in Dade County, GA located in the valley below scenic Lookout Mountain. It is conveniently located just 30 minutes from downtown Chattanooga Tennessee, and 30 minutes from Fort Payne, Alabama.
Meet the Rising Fawn Gardens Team
Karen LaRussa Persinger
CO-OWNER & STUDENT OF LIFE
Karen serves the land as owner and oversees the daily business operations of the farm as well as the Yoga House rentals and events. She is also spearheading the creation of turmeric-infused product collections set to launch in 2020.
Karen completed the Essentials of Herbalism Study with the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine in 2016. She’s also taken several Mindful School courses including Mindfulness Fundamentals and Mindful Educator Essentials. She is a certified yoga instructor and former school teacher. Her passion and talent for teaching makes sharing plant knowledge and nature-based wellness come naturally. To her, Rising Fawn Gardens is an invaluable gift to her family and the community. She spends her days making sure it is taken care of so it can be enjoyed by generations to come.
“Smile, breathe and go slowly” – Thich Nhat Hanh
CO-OWNER & CHIEF YARDMAN
Steve serves as owner and as chief yardman. He oversees planting and preserving the Medicinal Garden and fields, clearing and maintaining the trail system on the property and managing the game and wildlife habitats.
Steve’s lifelong experience being in and appreciating the great outdoors has shaped his desire to be a steward of the land and the abundant resources associated with it. He’s spent a vast amount of time learning from Mother Nature firsthand. His gardening experience comes from decades of trial and error in the dirt. Rising Fawn Gardens represents his passion for life. He is forever grateful for the daily opportunity to explore the property, commune with nature and reflect on life.
“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
In 2019, Beth became our first Gardens Manager. She brought her experience and love of working with and learning from the herbs as they grow from tiny seeds to the fruition of sipping a cup of garden fresh, nourishing herbal tisane. Along with this and her willingness to jump in headlong with us, the Medicinal Garden was created.
She first carefully honed the garden plan on paper, then grew or gathered the plants, and finally planted them in the soil she intentionally prepared for them. Along with growing, tending and harvesting the plants in the Medicinal Garden, production beds, and the ginger and turmeric plants in the hoop house, she also leads educational garden tours and seasonal herbal workshops.
After spending a season reconnecting with family and the wilderness she grew up loving, Beth has moved back to our area and has joyously resumed her role as our gardens manager. We are oh so happy to have her “can do” attitude and bright spirit back at Rising Fawn Gardens and look forward to many more seasons together.
From Beth, “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi
Ali Banks is our Apothecary Manager. Her role as an RFG team member is vital in bringing our customers the vibrant products we have come to enjoy. Her days are filled with plant medicine from the harvesting of tender herbs to the careful monitoring of their drying and proper storage. She has a knack and a nose for developing and preparing fragrant and healthy herbal tea blends and is the queen of pristine recordkeeping.
When she is not with us at Rising Fawn Gardens, you will find Ali busy as co-founder of Forest Folk Fungi, a medicinal mushroom apothecary. She has studied plant medicine since 2014, including a year-long course with the Gaia School of Healing and Earth Education, and offers private herbal consultations. She enjoys helping others explore how plants and fungi can support our wholeness.
From Ali: “I feel deeply grateful to have the privilege of spending time with the land and people at Rising Fawn Gardens. The spirit of this place is palpable—ancient, gentle, and present. It is a gift to interact with the wise green beings who live here and the good folks who tend them, know their names, know their seasons, and know their medicine.”
Amanda G. Verkest
ADMINISTRATIVE & OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
Amanda began working at RFG in early 2021 as a seasonal garden assistant. She brought a love for plants and learning to the fold, as well as a knowledge base on food science, quality control, and sustainability. She began helping with administrative tasks and retreat operations and before long, we knew we needed her as a permanent member of our team! Amanda’s thoughtful insights into managing operations and her communication skills are very appreciated as an important piece of the work at RFG.
Amanda holds a B.Sc. in nutrition and food science with a minor in chemistry and an M.Sc. in global studies and international relations. She previously worked in food and beverage microbiology and currently offers consulting services for international food regulation, sustainability, and international education. Amanda is a student of holistic herbalism at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine to continue her pursuit of becoming a clinical herbalist and plant medicine worker.
From Amanda: RFG is an ethereal space that continually fills my spirit with joy, curiosity, and serenity. “Medicine is a way of life, an object, or ceremony having power or control over influences that may affect a person, and a path toward restoring health.” -Cherokee Elder
TRAILS MANAGER & CONSERVATION
Kara Matassino joined the RFG team in 2020 as our gardens and trails assistant. Kara works with our plants from seedling to harvest and last year even tediously captured seeds from some of our plants at the end of the season to propagate for next year’s planting. Kara is now managing all of our trails and focuses on land conservation efforts. We love Kara’s smile and find it with her whether she is vigorously digging in the gardens, intentionally walking the trails, or processing turmeric with tenacity!
Kara comes to us with experience in establishing trails, land management, and general plant care. She is also trained in Wilderness First Aid a definite plus in our books!
From Kara: “RFG provides a safe, well-maintained area to continue education about medicinal plants and their potential uses. It is a space managed by folks who sincerely care about protecting the land they occupy.”