Emily Ruff, Executive Director of the Florida School of Holistic Living, 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 fifth generation sustenance farmer, 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. Her studies continue to take her around throughout Central and South American to study traditions of subtropical herbalism in order to further integrate the melting-pot materia medica of her homestate. Emily’s academic studies include Ethnobotany, Philosophy, and Women’s Studies at the University of Central Florida and Curanderismo with the University of New Mexico. She is a Bach Flower Registered Practitioner.
Emily’s dedication to preserving bioregional medicinal plant traditions and ecosystems led her to serve as a Board Member of United Plant Savers. Inspired by a need for greater connection among her regional community, she founded the Florida Herbal Conference event in 2012, an event which continues to sell out annually. 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.
Her most recent research focuses on biodynamics, bioregionalism, and biorhythmic-influenced cultivation and healing. She has taught at such venues as the Winter Park Public Library, the Orange County Library, the University of Central Florida, New England Women’s Herbal Conference, Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference, International Herb Symposium, and Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center. Emily lectures throughout Florida to groups, organizations, garden clubs, festivals, and schools.
Before joining the school, Emily traveled throughout the world teaching environmental, economic and social justice with international NGOs, and founding two social justice non-profits that remain thriving today. In 2004, Emily launched her product line, Orenda Herbal, to provide her community with quality herbal preparations formulated with organic and locally grown ingredients. She joined the leadership of the Florida School of Holistic Living at the invitation of her mentor, school founder George D’Arcy, in 2005.
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. Emily stewards an herbal urban homestead in Central Florida with her husband Michael, where she can be found in joy cooking, practicing yoga, writing, photographing flora, creating music with family and friends, and digging her fingers in the dirt. The plants continue to be her greatest teachers.