by Jesse Wolf Hardin Look at as many different conferences as you can find, so as to be able to fairly consider them all. Then go to as many as you want to and are able to, focusing on those that will do the most for you and your ability to give to others.
As the publishers of Plant Healer Magazine and the organizers of an annual herbal event, we get asked all kinds of things... including this one question in particular: “What makes your conference the right one for me to go to?” Our inevitable reply is that “Actually, ours may not be the ideal herbal gathering for you.”
Whether billed as a “conference,” “symposium,” or simply a “gathering,” most events for herbalists and the lovers of medicinal plants are wonderful, periodic opportunities for us to: 1. Gather together with other like-minded and like-hearted folks, visit with old friends and allies that you might otherwise only talk to on the computer, make new acquaintances, share stories, and plan out projects to work together on, building real and lasting community in the process.
It would be great if everyone had the time and funds to attend every event, but given folks’ tight schedules and the cost of travel, it can be wise to carefully consider what it is we each need and desire out of gatherings before making any plans. Developing criteria for deciding – and an understanding of the different kinds of gatherings – can be helpful... as can the anecdotal stories from other conference organizers that follow below. Also included here to help you, are a handful of event listings to give you just an idea of the variety of both the new and long established conferences being held annually here in the U.S., with the many other events easy to find by doing an internet searches for “herbal conference”.
2. Learn directly from a wide range of herbal teachers, speaking about the topics you are most interested in. 3. Reward ourselves for all our commitment and work, with a healthy dose of energizing and sometimes purely ecstatic celebration! From Oregon’s intimate Breitenbush gathering to the East’s mighty International Herbal Symposium 178
(IHS), dozens of large, medium and small gatherings provide a magical confluence of purpose and delight. There are few parts of the country where there is not a conference or weekend workshops within a day’s driving distance, and it can be well worth it to drive or fly across the continent to attend a particularly awesome event. And from their opening ceremonies to the final bittersweet parting, the experience is one of affirmation, stimulation, and celebration. The information learned can benefit one’s herbal practice for a lifetime, and the relationships developed there can continue to grow long after. It can take weeks or months for the excitement – the tingles, the charge, the “high” – to even begin to subside.
example, the IHS). Almost everyone wants to attend one of these extra large events sometime, and feel the energy of it. 2. International, Professional: Designed for professionals, academics (in the case of university conferences), and/or primarily for existing or applying members (as in the case of the American Herbalist Guild conferences). Nothing else can take the place of such an event, if yours is a particularly professional, official, or academic career path.
3. International, Niche: Events that still invite global participation, but that are characterized by a particular tradition or Types of Herbal Events approach (such as Traditional Chinese Medicine conferences, and the There are essentially four Southwest Conference on different kinds of herbal Botanical Medicine that’s conferences, each with its known for a naturopathic own approach, focus and emphasis), a certain audience. These can constituency or subset further be broken down (the various new radical into “international” and or “revolutionary” “regional” (or herbalism events, for “bioregional”). Regional example), or a gatherings draw together community or cause folks from a given (such as Herbal geographical area, Resurgence Rendezvous, building local community devoted specifically to the and focusing partly on folk herbalism revival... the medicinal plants of and the seeding of other the area. “International” International Herb Symposium groups and events). can be defined as something “carried on 4. Regional/Bioregional: between two or more nations,” but in this case Created special for the herbal community in a generally means “appealing to and involving certain bioregion, intimate, evoking a strong herbalists from all around the globe.” Even when regional/cultural flavor, and often emphasizing the international events draw only a few folks from medicinal plants common to the area. Close-by distant lands, they tend to attract participants from a regional events are less expensive to attend, and one larger swath of the continent. Regional gatherings can therefore often afford to attend one even if are just as important and enjoyable, if not more so, planning on going to an international conference the the difference being that they tend to appeal to folks same year. Every bioregion (defined by natural from the general area rather than afar, at their best landscape and biota, not political boundaries) needs evoking the flavor of a particular area and its its own herbal gathering, and all of us need to resident cultures and ecosystems. support local involvement. 1. International, Broad Spectrum: Inclusive, geared towards the widest range of participants, with the broadest possible scope (for
Which of these 4 types might serve us best, hinges on how we answer some basic questions, such as: 179
•Am I seeking a path to accreditation, professional credibility and career?
to and are able to, focusing on those that will do the most for you and your ability to give to others. Nearly every gathering has an informational website describing their focus and any characteristics that distinguish them, as well as their dates, location, classes, and any entertainment or other activities. Weigh the following factors when comparing the various events, in accordance with what you know to be your personal needs, desires, and short and long term plans.
•Or am I desirous of an empowering but informal education? •Would I do best with entry level classes, advanced, or something between? •Am I looking for classes within a certain tradition, or diverse perspectives?
Emphasis & Mission When selecting which conferences to attend in any given year, it can be good to begin with checking out the event’s focus, emphasis and mission. Is it largely general, such as “providing herbal information to all,” or more specific? Is it geared community and folk herbalists or to clinicians and professionals? Does it feature the specific approaches/traditions/perspectives you are most interested in? Do you personally share the mission and aims of the conference? What is the overall spirit, impression or vibe of the gathering?
•Am I searching for a particular skill set, for a specific intended use? •What do I most need to know, and what would I most enjoy learning? •What do I plan to do with what I learn? •What time of the year am I most likely able to get away from my normal work and home routines? •Would I do best with the intimacy of small group, a moderately sized event, or an excitingly large one?
Originality & Character Regardless of its focus or approach, it is an event’s unique character that makes it special, and its degree of originality that assures its integrity, makes it stand out, brings it recognition, and results in the loyalty of its participants. The less that an event appears to copy the style of another’s, the more it has to offer. Look for herbal events that are self defined, emulating without imitating, with a definable spirit and palpable flavor all their own.
•How far can I afford to travel, if I make my herbal education – and my attendance at a conference – a priority? And what might be the benefits of attending a smaller event close by? •Is there somewhere I would strongly like to visit and explore, that is also the site for an herbal gathering?
The Crowd While a number of the teachers are the same at various conferences, the size and make-up of the attendees varies greatly. Attendance can range anywhere from 50 participants to over 1,000, with some crowds being broad spectrum, others primarily professional or academic, some being mostly made up of spiritual/magical/self-help leaning folks, some that are for women only... and a few funky wild events like Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous that draw self-described misfits, homesteaders and kitchen herbalists, activists, younger enthusiasts and even teens. Imagine what kinds of folks you might want to hang-out with most, learn with and from, and develop friendships and alliances of purpose with.
•How important are the social, ritual or celebratory aspects to me, what kinds of people would I most like to build relationships with at this time, what experience would I find most inspiring and lastingly fulfilling?
Selecting Conferences To Attend Once we’ve given sufficient thought to our personal requirements and wants, the next step is to do extensive online research to find out which event(s) best serve them. Look at as many different conferences as you can find, so as to be able to fairly consider them all. Then go to as many as you want
Bevin Clare, 7Song & Unidentified
Class Topics One of the most important factors of all is the matter of class topics. Whether there are 10 classes or 50, the question is how many of those being offered contain the information you most need for your work and aims, and which youâ€™re really excited to attend.
Number of Classes Per Slot You may also want to know how many classes are being taught simultaneously. Too packed a schedule, too little down-time, and too many classes at once can be hectic for some attendees, but having too few of classes in each time slot means fewer opportunities and choices.
Class Types & Levels When assessing classes, keep in mind whether you are looking for entry level, moderate or advanced lessons, since basic courses can be uninspiring if you already know the material, and because one has to have a good understanding of the basics in order to makes sense out of some of the most advanced classes. There are also different types or formats of classes to consider, such as instructional lectures/ talks, question and answer sessions, group panels and debates, hands-on workshops, ceremony/ritual, and roving plant identification walks.
Teachers Itâ€™s good to know or research the herbalists who are presenting at any given event, since teachers have very different specialties, teaching styles and levels of knowledge. On the other hand, it likely shouldnâ€™t be the main criteria, because: 1. The majority of the better known herbal instructors can be found teaching wherever they are invited, with many of the same names appearing repeatedly all around the country.
2. Many of the most effective and exciting teachers amenities of a well-appointed hotel or convention happen to also be the lesser known ones, herbalists center. that we may not even recognize Kid & Pet Friendly the names of when we research Midwestern Women’s Herbal Conference If you have pets that travel with the lineup at the different you, you obviously need to be conferences. sure that pets are allowed on site or in the rooms, and under what 3. Class topics and content can be circumstances. If you have more important than who is infants you need to bring, or doing the teaching, especially children who have an interest in given that teachers can fall into a herbs and would love to come, rut and repeat nearly identical then you will want to find out classes at multiple events. how kid-friendly any given event is. Childcare is seldom provided, Dates but you can sometimes find sites Conferences are held in all but with playgrounds, and some the coldest times of the year, with events including Herbal some indoor events beginning as Resurgence include a number of early as March and as late as special kid’s classes and events October. Dates can matter, if you just for them. If you would are someone who can only get appreciate a break from the noise away from work at certain times, and demands of children, on the or a parent with school-age children that you would other hand, you will want to look extra hard at like to bring. conferences that prohibit or at least don’t encourage rugrats. Proximity How close you live to an event is a factor if there is Feel no way you can gather enough funds to travel As important as any other criteria, perhaps, is how a further than a certain distance, or if you are looking gathering that you heard or read about feels to you. for a conference that mostly involves people and Does the possibility of going there feel mainly like a topics related to your home region. reasonable and practical choice, or do you intuit a deeper connection, feel drawn or called? Do you Location feel excited about the very possibility of attending, Where an event is held is also a consideration... first to the point of being gladly willing to ask a boss for and foremost, because of how much the landscape time off of work, or a family member for their and spirit of a place can affect our experience of it. blessing on the trip? It may be one of the gatherings Every location has its own history, natural history, that you should go to, if you sometimes think about spirit and ambiance. Are we drawn to mountains, what it will be like while doing your daily tasks, or deserts, forests or farmlands, or would we prefer the ever dream of it at night. convenience and comfort of a more urban setting? Is it important that there be natural areas near the For further input, seek the opinion of herbalist event site for plant walks? friends with similar tastes who have attended different events. Look up blogs and reviews from Lodging, Facilities & Meals previous participants. Ask for suggestions and hints It’s important to keep in mind what kind of lodging from other herbalists on online social media sites, and facilities we’d like to have, whether we can be and compare their experiences and impressions. comfortable in a campground tent at an event with no rooms available, would enjoy rustic rented Once you have figured it out, it’s time to commit, cabins, or would prefer the convenience and start saving up, plan and grin! 183
The Herbal Conference Experience Featuring contributions from: Rosemary Gladstar, Corinna Wood, Kristine Brown, Elise Higley, Kate Gilday, Steph Zabel, Rebekah Dawn, Lawrence Burch and Jennephyr Reiche-Sterling It is Kiva’s and my desire not just to use Plant teaching and living and writing about herbs in Healer to network our own Herbal Resurgence northern California to this day); Svevo Brooks, a Rendezvous, but to help naturopath who was one seed and promote new of my earliest mentors gatherings, and to and remains a close encourage the whole friend, Reed idea of conferencing and Worthington who went gathering. The article/ on to become the first Ebook you’re reading herb formulator for was one way to Celestial Seasonings. accomplish this. And Just like the events of one of the best ways for today, it was inspiring, you to get a feel for joyful, fun, educational different events, is and completely blew through the anecdotes our socks off! We had and tales of the folks 50 people come the first who work so hard to year, but by the third create and sustain them. year over 500 people We put out a public were attending these request for personal northern California stories, and heard back herbal events. There from organizers from all was such openhearted over the United States sharing and excitement and Canada. Taken in those days, it was together, their responses really awesome. Then describe some of the we discovered history, fun and flavor Breitenbush, which is of herbal conferencing. memorable because it As Rosemary Gladstar was there we began to wrote me, “I’ve never invite herbalists from been to an herbal the east coast and other conference I didn’t parts of the U.S. to join Breitenbush Herbal Conference love!” us… and the herbal movement began to It was dear Rosemary who described to me the very visibly spread out across the landscape!” first modern herbal conferences, as far as I know beginning with her pioneering “Herbal Retreat at Now in its 27th year, the Breitenbush Herbal Rainbow End Ranch, $25 for the weekend, organic Conference (breitenbushherbalconference.com) continues to draw a smaller but dedicated group of food, camping, music and dancing, and hot teachers and students every Fall to their beautiful tubbing!” As she tells us in an interview for our Oregon site, focusing this year on “sustainable 21st Century Herbalists book, “I invited three other harvesting, habitat conservation, ethical sourcing, herbalists in the area to come teach with me: Rob growing-your-own and community health care.” Menzie, the wild weed man of the west (still 185
IHS Closing Circle, Wheaton College MA
Rosemary went on to help develop what has become the single largest herbal event in this country, the International Herb Symposium (IHS) (internationalherbsymposium.com), now in its 14th year. The famed IHS is held every other year in June on the campus of Wheaton College, with the college’s classrooms hosting up to 15 different herbal classes at a time! Over twice as many people attend this conference than most others, thanks in part due to its deliberately broad general focus and inclusive, international approach:
industry, health freedom rights, and, of course, the conservation issues surrounding native medicinal plants. The IHS has been a fund raiser for United Plant Savers since 1994, and a large chunk of the profit is donated to UpS during the closing circle to support the work of medicinal plant conservation, cultivation and habitat preservation.” Two of the other largest events in the U.S. were designed for women only, and cover a variety of topics beyond herbs and healing. One of these is the much loved Southeast Wise Woman Herbal Conference (sewisewoman.com), founded in 2005. It’s attended by up to 1,000 women every October in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Its mission is to provide what founder Corinna Wood calls “a strong, inspirational container for women to learn, celebrate, and connect... with workshops, special events, and celebrations by women for women”
“The IHS embraces the wide range of ideas, beliefs, and the various methods that we have of working with the plants,” Rosemary explains. “From shamanic practices, to folkloric and ethnobotanical to scientific and clinical, to the community herbal practitioner, all are welcomed and honored. We invite an amazing diversity of teachers that represent these many pathways so there’s an opportunity to network and dialogue. The IHS is a very diverse and eclectic gathering that promotes a wide exchange of ideas. In the same way that we helped built and weave our ‘back yard herbal movement’, we are weaving the global herbal community so that we have a strong network of plant lovers that stretches around the world. In respect to the wild-hearted nature of plant people, we honor the many diverse paths we each follow and the great diversity of the Green Nations. We also use the IHS as a platform for bringing to the forefront many of the ‘issues’ that herbalist face today; animal testing in the natural product
SE Wise Woman Conference
danced round the fire, we prayed, and we drummed some more. And between all of this, we studied, shared and learned about herbs together. Herbs were the unifying force that wove us together into a rich and colorful tapestry.” Rosemary is also an organizer of the New England Women’s Herbal Conference (NWWHC) (womensherbalconference.com), founded by Gail Ulrich, and now a fund raiser for United Plant Savers and the Gail Ulrich Herbal Education Memorial Fund and others. It’s held Augusts at a 90 year old New Hampshire girl’s camp called Camp Wicosuta. “The WHC celebrated its 25th anniversary last year so we’ve watched a generation of girls grow up there. Women who first came as babies are now young mothers at the event. Their mothers are the elders. It’s not uncommon to have several generations of one family in attendance. It’s a place where we come to ignite and spark one another, and to create healing not only on a personal level, but planetary as well.”
“During that first weekend,” Corinna remembers, “it became clear what those women were experiencing was amazing, a special opportunity for herbal education but also something that went far beyond herbs. It was about loving ourselves, nourishing ourselves with food, embracing our bodies and our sexuality. We were offering tools for healthy and joyful living in times that often felt challenging to women.” Susun Weed, keynote speaker of the first conference, gathered the attendees together and had them arrange themselves by age order, hand-in-hand, youngest to oldest. Gesturing to the empty space beyond the octogenarian grandmother at one end she said, “there are all the women that ever were,” and to the space beyond the pre-pubescent girl at the other end, “there are all the women who are yet to come. You are part of an incredible continuum – this is an unbroken spiral of women.” Each year, it helps grow the web of wise women, and the women grow with it.
New England Women’s Herbal Conference
”Every women’s herbal conference I have ever attended in different parts of the country all share the same or similar core values,” Rosemary Gladstar tells me. “It is a time to gather, honor our ancient herbal and healing heritage, to relax, play and empower ourselves. It is a special time of renewal and restoration. Of learning and sharing. I love seeing more women’s herbal conferences happen, as it enables more women to attend closer to home.”
There is a lot of power in getting that many women, or men and women, together at once, and the many years that some events have existed is something to be respected. There is also something exciting about becoming involved with a newer conference from early on, becoming integral to its community, and there is something precious about smaller gatherings as well. Smaller crowds can make for a slower pace, more student interaction with teachers, and potentially deeper intimacy. What they lack in total number of teachers, they can make up for with greater opportunities for intimacy, connections, and reflection.
“I hosted my first women’s herbal conference in 1978. What inspired it? I think it must have been a message straight from the Goddess herself! As far as I know, there hadn’t been any other women’s herbal conferences before this. You must remember this was in the 70’s, the ‘women’s movement’ was in full swing, and we were hungry for change! We were wild woman! We sang, we drummed, we 187
New England Women’s Herbal Conference, enjoying conversation with friends and the sensation of my recently adopted 2 month old wrapped close against my chest. The news that the conference was to move to a new location 2 hours north was a blow to those of us who hailed from the “South” – Pennsylvania, in my case. The thought of 10 hours in the car with my little ones was too much, even though the conference had fed me deeply for over a decade. Jokingly, I called over to Bevin Clare, ‘Hey why don’t we start our own women’s conference in the MidAtlantic region?’” The majority of herbal conferences in the last two decades have been largely attended by active herbalist practitioners, but there is also a need for classes designed for beginner folks who plan only to treat themselves, friends and families.
New England Women’s Herbal Conference
The 3rd MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference (redearthfarm.org/whc) is only in its third year, but has attracted an enthused cadre of attendees. Inspired by the WHC, it aims to create a community of women in the MidAtlantic region who can teach, heal and support each other in their herbal journeys. It’s held out of the city, every October on a very pretty 100 acre Pennsylvania farm.
“Although modeled after its New England mother, our conference took on its own spirit from the beginning in 2011. The biggest difference I noticed was the number of attendees who knew very little about herbal medicine, but who were eager to learn, not as practitioners, but as women who want to live a healthier life style that is kind to the earth. This presented a bit of a challenge for the teachers who were used to speaking to more advanced crowds, but if offered a delightful reward in knowing that 100 women walked away with new knowledge and inspiration about using plants as medicine.”
Having helped work to build the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, I am always curious what inspires folks to go to so much effort. I asked MidAtlantic’s founder Kate Gilday this question, and she tells us: “In August, 2010, I sat under a Linden Tree at the
MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference
and giving one another encouragement. I cannot wait to look into the eyes of these women again and hear how their gardens are growing.”
Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference
Elise Higley seems to have gotten the herbal conference organizing bug too, and is putting together this year’s TerraVita Herbal Symposium (www.terravitasprings.com/?page_id=400), held in July near Ashland, Southern Oregon. Another weekend event offering a variety of classes for all levels, it’s unique in that it is held on a medicinal herb farm, and Elise tells me attendees get a chance for hands on time with the plants, exploring cultivation and growing techniques. Unlike conference center and university venues, lodging is close to the land camping and tipi spaces. They consider it a way to share the living land with folks, as well as to spread the herbal word. Lodging options vary from camping, tipi lodging to renting one of the rooms in the straw bale home. Because of our passion to spread the knowledge of plant medicine and share this beautiful land with others we hosted our first symposium on our 1st year anniversary of moving here on the land. It was a wonderful way to mark that milestone. The Women's Herbal Symposium of Northern California was and continues to be an inspiration for me to create this event.
Linda Conroy spearheaded last year’s 1st Annual Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference (www.midwestwomensherbal.com), a Wise Woman gathering held the last weekend in June in Willard, Wisconsin at the Christine Center nature sanctuary. We’ve heard nothing but great reports from those who attended. There will always be some discussion about womenonly versus multigender conferences, and Plant Healer columnist Kristine Brown can see both sides. She says that at first she was “a bit saddened that the MWHC was a women’s only conference, (I mean… hello! Jim McDonald, Matt Wood, and others, important M i d w e s t e r n herbalists and very influential to me personally)... but I have to admit, there is something special about women gathering together
TerraVita Herbal Symposium
If that weren’t enough, Elise also accepted when asked to put on the first-ever SEEDS Southern California Herbal Symposium in January 2014, to be held at a small school within the Laguna Wilderness Preserve, in Laguna Beach. Considering how many people live in So. Cal., there has long been a shortage of herbal related events, and the symposium plans to help change that. It should be a great opportunity for the plant healers and students of that region to get together and begin the process of building lasting, reciprocal relationships and alliances. You can contact Elise about either at: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Montana Herb Gathering
(www.albertaherbgathering.com), with its focus on Alberta bioregion plant medicines. The Montana Herb Gathering (montanaherbgathering.org) is another bioregional event, a featuring both local and national teachers. Bioregional gigs tend to have a particular local flavor, both serving and evoking the feel of a particular region. MHG is special in that it’s an official non-profit organization run completely on a volunteer basis.... including its board of directors. They keep their prices extra low and put no limits on how many volunteers they give free tickets to. The MHG was conceived in the spark of a campfire flame in 1997, enjoyed steady growth through 2003 event, then “took a three year nap” before being resuscitated by Kris Hill with the help of Skeeter Pilarski in 2007. She succinctly defines MHG as “a movement that offers herbal education to all regardless of their age or financial situation in
The AHG Symposium (www.ahgsymposium.com) is a much larger conference gathering together the many professional members of the American Herbalist Guild. They encourage folks to apply for membership, and nonmembers can still attend for a higher fee. Their exciting 2013 event is scheduled for November in the high plains of Eastern Oregon. Not all American herbal events take place in the United States, of course. We were thus glad to hear about the Alberta Herb Gathering
diverse ecological settings throughout the state of Montana.” Participants camp out. Steph Zabel has done something different, by initiating a variation on the often rural conference setting. Herbstalk (www.herbstalk.org) is an
Alberta Herb Gathering 190
educational experience including workshops and plant walks, held in June in the city, serving the greater Boston area. “With this approach, we can reach many people that are not necessarily herbalists,” Steph says, “but who are interested in learning more about how to use herbs at home for themselves and their families. For laypeople Herbstalk is a gateway into the herbal world, a place to inspire and connect them with the local herbal resources at their disposal. With education, we are changing the perception that herbalism is something strange, dangerous or on the ‘fringe’, into something that is a natural and healthful part of people’s daily lives.”
UPS Planting The Future
“Sustainable herbalism, to us means coexisting in harmony with nature.” Conferences with causes are especially dear to me, not the least of which being United Plant Saver’s Planting The Future (www.unitedplantsavers.org), conferences focused on the conservation and cultivation of native medicinal plants, the next being held in August at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, near LaFarge, Wisconsin. It’s great to see events organized specifically for the wellbeing of the plants, not just for the b e n e fi t of those who use them.
Lawrence Burch launched the annual Sustainable Herb Conference (www.givingtreefarm.com) in March of 2012, hosted at the Linn-Benton Community College in Corvallis, Oregon. With a sliding scale of $10 to $35, it is the most affordable herbal event we know of, a full day of exciting speakers at price that eliminates the painful accessibility issue. Their mission is “to encourage the sustainable use of herbs in everyone's lives,” as Lawrence writes,
Sustainable Herb Conference
attracts herb lovers and culture changers from all over the world, including folks who generally avoid conferences but love the wild, edgy, tribal feel of the Resurgence experience... held in mid-September at gorgeous Mormon Lake, in the high forests of Arizona just south of the amazing Grand Canyon. All of these events offer something a little different, even as they all provide an opportunity for herbal learning and camaraderie. When you show up at any of these wonderful events, with everything more or less working, it can be easy to imagine that the process of organizing a conference is easy. The truth, is that organizers have to begin working on such events at least a full year in advance, coming up with the funding long before any income from ticket sales start coming in, dealing with site rental and insurance, arranging lodging or camping, teacher bookings and meeting all their various personal needs, scheduling the classes and providing meals. There are cancelations, money problems, and last minute schedule changes that participants seldom have to hear about or suffer
The Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous (www.herbalresurgene.org) emphasizes a folk herbalism that empowers the individual, inspiring and enabling action and healing in all other aspects of our lives, in our communities and the natural world that sustain us. It features a strong conservation component, and empowering classes about herbalist regulation and activism, as well clinical herbal skills, wildcrafting, plant spirit medicine, and a half dozen special classes just for kids and teens. A mid-sized international event, it
from. I asked our contributors what obstacles they dealt with or lessons they learned in the process. Kate Gilday says the biggest lesson she has learned “is that organizing and hosting an herbal conference is a lot different than going to one! Driving 10 hours in a car with young kids is a picnic compared to the year of preparation, not to mention the crazy week before. One thing I really hadn’t thought about was last minute ‘Unexpected Events’, such as our 2011 keynote speaker Donna Bryant Winston coming down with a debilitating tooth ache and canceling. And this past year, Pam Montgomery with a broken arm and Mary Bove with broken ribs both traveling a distance in significant discomfort but thank goodness able to come. When you only have 4 core teachers, you really notice when one or two go missing!” Kate “also hadn’t realized how busy and preoccupied I would be at the conference itself. As for attending classes? Well, I try to sit still for at least one each year, but even that is a challenge.”
renewed hope and light to her life. In fact, when I look back over the things I feel were my gifts to my herbal community, this was one of them; bringing Juliette to America so people here would have the opportunity to meet this amazing human being. But also, for Juliette, that she had the chance to see how much her gifts had affected and influenced a generation of herbalists.”
Cascade Anderson Geller at IHS
Lawrence could relate, pointing out how they’d “lost both our original Keynote and back-up speakers – the second one just a few days before the event! Seeing as the conference event fell on St. Patrick's Day, I stepped up to the plate, first reminding attendees how important the concept of sustainability was to herbalism, and then closing my talk with a few Irish jokes, to the overwhelming appreciation of his audience (well, actually, it has been suggested that I not quit my day job as a clinical herbalist...”
I’ll spare you the details of all Kiva and I have gone through to make the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous happen these past four years. Yet, for all the difficulties, the satisfaction of successfully putting on an event, contributing to alliance and community, education and inspiring folks is immense. I asked our contributors what they found most rewarding about organizing.
“At the second IHS,” Rosemary adds, “I invited the legendary Juliette de Baircli Levy to be our keynote speaker, one of my earliest and most beloved teachers. Juliette had not been to the U.S. since 1954 and was somewhat reluctant to come. As it turned out, the only way to get her here was for me to fly over to Greece with my two teenage daughters in tow, and gather her up. After many obstacles, we got back just in time for the big event! It was worth every minute of worry and headache, because she not only was a huge success, but because it brought
Jennephyr Reiche-Sterling, current President and one of the organizers of Montana’s gathering said: “The most exciting and satisfying aspects of organizing the MHG is that once a year I can help create a home for all of the plant people out there 193
who are looking for connection. For 3 days we have our village and our herb family. I have stretched myself farther than I ever thought possible both as an herbalist and organizer and come out on the other end stronger and more flexible. My passion for the plants has only grown and my commitment to herbal education is rooted even deeper within my spirit and my daily life.”
Conference?,” Lawrence contributed. “Seeing all of the smiles on everybody's faces throughout the day
Kristine Brown and Rebekah Dawn said “Every person we talked to at the MWHC was so energetic and involved in something amazing, each of these women blooming where they are planted, many of us without a large peer or support group in our sometimes conservative midwestern communities, but here we found a tribe and proof that though the path may be lonely at home we are part of a great family working to enliven the folk medicine tradition.” and knowing I helped make that joy possible.” Herbal Resurgence cofounder Kiva Rose describes the satisfaction of “creating a venue, a base camp for the gathering of a wild tribe,” “attracting such amazing, unusual people,” “enjoying the unique contributions and deep loyalties of an incredible body of teachers,” “providing some exciting and edgy classes that our teachers offer nowhere else,” and “getting to personally meet some of the thousands of herbalist friends and readers that I usually only speak to through our articles, blog posts (www.bearmedicineherbals.com) and my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ KivaRingtailRose).” Most of all, though, she joins me in valuing the way that the Resurgence effects the larger folk herbal movement and our society in general, as folks heading home from the gathering “take their inspiration, information, friendships and alliances, ideas and dreams back with them, starting businesses, volunteering for free clinics in and outside of the U.S., teaching herbalism to their kids, organizing to confront oncoming regs and restrictions, planting little gardens, offering plant walks in their town and cities, living their lives with more awareness and gusto and delight, believing in themselves and trusting their calling and fulfilling their potential.” Neither the good work, the friendships or the celebration end with such a gathering. At best an event pollinates, seeds, plants, nourishes, supports and propels a new healing and life paradigm all year round.
Elise Higley reports that “One of the most exciting aspects of organizing an event like this is the community and support that is created on that weekend that I know is life changing for many, not just for us and this land that we steward.” Bostonian Steph Zabel adds “It was invigorating to see so many people gather in one place and to truly see what a huge interest there is in herbal education (at least in this neck of the ‘woods’). It was also uplifting to be a part of all the knowledge sharing and witness the connections being formed amongst the herbal community of Boston and beyond. We needed an event like this, and we needed to bring a group like this together in order to share knowledge, create community, and return to the roots of health and medicine in a powerful way.” Kate beautifully says the experience of putting on an herbal event fills her heart “to overflowing, witnessing the excitement between the women, seeing friendships born, listening to the teachers, seeing kids joyfully experiencing nature, and knowing the plants at our feet will be used to bring new healing throughout the year... these things fill me with the deep satisfaction of life purpose in action, the most healing balm I know.” “The most exciting thing about organizing, promoting and presenting The Sustainable Herb 194
New England Women’s Conference
Dr. Friedman & Rosemary Gladstar
Rosemary Gladstar boils it down to three primary aspects of organizing that can be “most soul satisfying.” “One,” she says, is “being a platform to bring important issues to the forefront and has provided an impetus for change – issues like medicinal plant conservation, animal rights, health freedom rights all woven into the gathering, coming together to network and share visions, and ideas and then going out into our communities to sow and nurture the seeds that are birthed from our
created..” “And finally,” she concludes, “watching the herbal community grow and mature over the years, so that we have become more inclusive and eclectic. Rather than becoming set on one way, we are beginning to recognize and honor the many diverse ways that we can work with plants, and the importance of that diversity to health and healing. I feel every herbal conference hosted in this country has played a big part growing our herbal communities and in creating respect and honor for the various green paths we chose to follow…. and the footsteps we
Teachers Nel, Rocio, Dinah & Raylene at IHS
work together.” “Another,” she continues, “is bringing to the forefront so many young herbalists, as well as elders and amazing healers from other countries to this event so that people have had the opportunity to meet one another and work and study with these amazing healers. So many peoples lives have been changed because of the teachings that are shared and exchanged, friendships formed, communities
follow in.” Indeed! Pick the events the events that excite you most and equip you the best, and/or those nearest to you, learn and enjoy. 195
Photos, Clockwise from Top Left: New England Women’s Conference drum circle; Jim McDonald, Paul Bergner & Wolf Hardin at Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous 2010; Breitenbush conference plant walk; Ready for the Ball at the Montana Herb Conference; Kathryn Meier at the MidAtlantic Women’s Conference; The flower bedecked, historic Mormon Lake conference site. Tribe’s Alive!