This past Saturday, I attended an herbal conference that snuck up on me. It’s been on my calendar, as had the early-bird registration date, for ages. And suddenly, it was time to be there.
At the conference, I was asked how I found out about it, to improve their marketing efforts next year. Ummmm… I couldn’t remember. Maybe through the sponsoring farm? Am I a CSA member? Well, yes, but I’m pretty sure I discovered the CSA in researching the conference. (This gives some perspective- I probably signed up for the CSA in March or so. My share-buddy confirmed, I found the CSA for us through the conference, not the other way around.)
Well, however I came to be there, they were glad I was. And boy, so was I!
I plan to tell you more about the vendors, because they deserve their own special mentions and I got some really great stuff. And I can’t wait to tell you about meeting the wonderful, fabulous… but I‘ll wait and tell you her name later. Suffice, for now, to say that I met a real-life Herbal Rock Star, and a favorite Rock Star of mine at that.
Today, I want to tell you about the conference itself, and encourage you to put it on your calendar for next year. Right now, go ahead, the first weekend in October, I’ll wait. (Add a reminder, for about the first week of July, so you can look for early bird registration!)
This was the 3rd Annual Mid-Atlantic Women’s Herbal Conference, and the first such event for me. Apparently, 4 years ago, the founder went to a conference in New England where it was announced that the next year, the location was moving 2 hours even further from her home outside of Allentown PA. So she decided to put on her own conference, with the help of some good friends and a hard working team, within a year. And they did!
Also, apparently, the first 2 years were COLD. This year, it was NOT! We had a fantastic day, at least 80 degrees, sunny, breezy, and dry. A storm passed near us in the afternoon and while we stayed dry, the cloud cover cooled us off and gave a beautiful evening.
We were gathering at a farm about 30 minutes west of Allentown PA. Most of that 30 minutes was spent on a breathtaking country road. After I exited the highway (Route 78, for you locals), I drove along a twisty windy two- lane road that kept to the top ridges of the hills, and gave spectacular sunrise views over farmland and into misty valleys. After a while I went down, down, down alongside a farm with terraced ponds, that fed a creek, that my road continued to follow. Here it was darker, and damper, and more mysterious, and still beautiful. It was a very long road! And I was very glad they had given us the latitude/longitude coordinates, since there wasn't a real "address"!
The land we gathered on, I believe, is a secondary site for Red Earth Farm that hosted the conference. It had some hoophouses, and a large pole building and some port-a-pottys, and fields. Tents were set up to hold us- one for registration, one for vendors, and three for classes. Food vendors were in and near the large ‘barn’ building opposite the tents, giving us a center courtyard with a fire pit. I had plenty of time to register and browse the vendor tables, and begin spending my money.
Charis, the founder (think CHarisma, or CHaracter) spoke for a while, telling us about the history of the conference so far and introducing the day’s teachers a little. She also read a piece to us that was beautiful and inspirational, and pre-written because by the time Saturday had arrived she was pretty well fried! I hope she posts it online, so we can reference it and quote from it. It was about being a woman, and a healer, and the community that we share through our callings, based on the conference theme “Woven Roots and Strong Shoots”.
Then we had a quick vendor break, and our day began. 3 classes, an hour and a half each, with 15 minute vendor breaks in between. Each of the 3 tents had a class going on, and I just showed up at the tent I was interested in. First I attended “Herbs for Easing Stress, Building Resiliency and Restoring Joy”, then we had our lunch break. Next, I went to “Lungs, Leaves, Prayer and Breath” on “nourishing practices for the fall and winter seasons”, and finally “Detoxification and Weight Management”.
The keynote was on “Women Embracing Plants, Traditions and Community”. The speaker, Kate Gilday, told beautiful stories about family camping trips when she was a child- one of 10 kids!-, and of Guatemalan women who learned healing arts in her community in the early 1980’s to take back to their traumatized villages, and of coming to find out she was a hippie, a gardener, and an herbalist.
There was a strong emphasis on community all day, of understanding that we all felt similar desires to help someone- maybe ourselves, maybe our families, maybe our communities, but that what we have in common can support each of us on our journeys. Charis told a story of a practitioner she invited to come and teach at the conference, who lived 60 miles from it. It’s too far, she was told, I’ll just stay here and keep doing my own little thing. Charis admonished us that while that’s fine, what we do will always remain a “little thing” unless we form a greater community and benefit from one another.
It was a wonderful day, and I do think I benefited from everyone there. I met nice people, learned some interesting things, and ate some great chicken-cashew chili. Please come next year! You won't regret it, whatever the weather.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
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