Emily Ruff

Conference Founder & Co-Director

Emily Ruff is a community herbalist who has practiced the art and science of plant healing for over a decade. Her studies have taken her around three continents where she has studied under healers of many traditions. Her background in gardening and botany came in childhood while wandering the wilderness and digging in the sandy soils of Florida with her grandfather, a tobacco farmer turned urban gardener, and her father, a botany and astronomy professor. Her journey into herbalism continued through apprenticeships in Guatemala under the tutelage of local healers on the southern coast of Lake Atitlan, in the mountains of Vermont at the feet of Rosemary Gladstar, and in the Central Florida apothecary Leaves & Roots with herbalists Carolyn Whitford and George D’Arcy. She is recipient of the 2022 American Botanical Council Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award.

In 2005, Emily founded the Florida School of Holistic Living as a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to cultivating sustainable community through education. The school offers classes and workshops in the Orlando, Florida area with a robust online curriculum. Inspired by a need for greater connection among her regional community, she founded the Florida Herbal Conference event in 2012, an event that continues to sell out annually. In 2018, Emily formed a new nonprofit organization to carry forth Rosemary Gladstar's legacy of conservation, education and healing through stewardship of the Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary, where Emily currently serves as director. Emily frequently testifies in the Vermont State Legislature on issues of conservation and equity, and holds several positions of leadership in municipal government and advocacy organizations.

Emily’s dedication to preserving bioregional medicinal plant traditions and ecosystems led her to become active in the organization United Plant Savers as a board member.  In past years, she served multiple terms as president of the Herb Society of Central Florida and as co-founder of Homegrown Local Food Cooperative. In response to the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Emily founded the Grief Care Project with her colleagues at FSHL. Emily is an instructor in the Herbal Academy Advanced Herbal Training Course and the Ecoversity Herbalism Certification program. Her academic studies include Ethnobotany, Philosophy, and Women’s Studies at the University of Central Florida and Curanderismo with the University of New Mexico.

Emily’s classes have been described as “heart-filled,” “enriching,” and “empowering,” creating a bridge between the teachings of our ancestors and the technologies of our modern world. The plants continue to be her greatest teachers.

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