Florida herbalist Emily Ruff grew a love for plants at an early age. Her father was a botanist, and her grandfather an urban farmer. At age 18, she traveled to Guatemala to work with medicinal herbs and to learn the traditions of what she describes, broadly speaking, as “our herbal ancestors.” Later, she studied under the late George D’Arcy, founder of the Florida School of Holistic Living for which Ruff now serves as director, as well as Rosemary Gladstar at Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center in central Vermont.
Although she spent nearly a decade as a practicing herbalist in Orlando, traveling to New England or North Carolina, as she put it, “to get my fix of the brother and sisterhood of the green people,” Ruff said she couldn’t help but feel isolated. “The Florida herbal community for a long time was largely disconnected,” she explained. But then Gladstar encouraged her to seek out other Florida herbalists.
“I started to poke around in the rocks and gardens and realized that in most of the major communities in Florida there was at least one practicing herbalist,” Ruff said. This realization became the impetus behind the Florida Herbal Conference, now in its third year.