2021 Reflections from Maggie & Emily

As we approach the final days of 2021, I encourage us all to allow a deep exhale as we reflect on the last twelve months, preferably with a warm cup of herbal tea in hand.

One of my dear friends and FSHL graduate, Lisa Ray, used to tell me that in hard times, “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” – as a reminder to slow down and pace myself for the long haul.

If 2020 taught us anything, it was recognizing that the uncertainty of our times will persist, possibly far longer than we can imagine, and that the only way we can cultivate resilience to get through it is by caring for ourselves like we’re in a marathon.

As we entered 2021, we took this advice to heart. At Florida School of Holistic Living, we envisioned ways we could still support our community in deepening their relationships to plants while doing so safely and responsibly. We dreamed up opportunities to learn across a distance that were also engaging and inspiring us in the physical green world around us.

Like everyone, we’ve had a lot of heartache this year. We honor and acknowledge those we’ve lost and those hurdles we’ve jumped, climbed, or crawled over to arrive where we are today. We humbly bow in thanks to the plant allies that have tended to our grief, that have softened our sense of loss, and that have given our nervous systems a little extra nourishment to stand back upright after we crumble into a heap of tears and exhaustion.

We also pause to reflect on the celebrations, as fuel to keep us going. Our greatest celebration, dear readers, is each one of you that makes our school community. Whether you live local to Orlando, or tune in from afar, your involvement makes our work not only possible but meaningful, and for that, we give great thanks.

2021 has brought us many milestones worth honoring – the tenth anniversary of our annual conference, dozens of graduates of our Family Herbalist and Community Herbalist programs now out serving their loved ones and the plants, and two brand new programs – Moon Medicine, and a clinical workshop series.

We celebrate a brand new garden and office space in Altamonte Springs to allow us to send down more roots, so we can continue to extend our branches and raise our blossoms to the sun in our efforts to bring you quality educational programs and opportunities.

We also celebrate the leadership of longtime FSHL family member, Maggie O’Halloran, as she stepped into the role of Executive Director this fall to allow me to lend more of my focus to carrying on the legacy of our beloved mentor Rosemary Gladstar at the Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary. After fifteen years as Executive Director, I will still be close at hand serving on the Board, as a teacher of the Community Herbalist and Flower Essence programs, and in a variety of adjunct and volunteer capacities, but I’m so grateful to take a step back to give space in the organization for fresh ideas and nurturing energy from someone who has devoted her heart and soul to the school for the last six years as Roots of Herbalism, Family Herbalist instructor and Education Director.

Maggie and I, along with the rest of our core team (Chris, Mila, and Debbie) have some exciting announcements in the New Year about brand new courses, fresh in-person opportunities, the launch of a reimagined Community Herbal Clinic, and yes, updates on the next year of the Florida Herbal Conference. We hope you’ll stay tuned to our newsletter and social platforms for the latest updates, and we hope to see you in the garden in 2022.

As a 501c3 nonprofit, many of our programs are made possible by the generous donations of our supporters. As we close 2021, we welcome your support to allow us to serve our community through programs such as free classes, free clinics, and scholarships. Make your year-end impact by donating at this link.

With gratitude and grace,

Emily Ruff
Founder and CEO, Florida School of Holistic Living

It is with great joy I accept the opportunity to step deeper into the day to day operations at FSHL. I promise to stay focused on nurturing the environment that gave me such relief in 2013  when I first took the Roots of Herbalism class with Emily. Over the years through being a student in the family herbalist, assisting while a community student, then taking on teaching and administrative roles my love of our community has only grown. I have no intentions of tempting to fill the shoes of my teacher, friend, and leader Emily Ruff. Her desire to bring herbalism back into every kitchen will live on with many of our programs continuing as she designed them. 

As we look ahead to watching the seeds we planted in 2022 grow, we can’t wait to see you in person to connect with the plants with in person and virtual options. We learned a lot about how technology can provide access to out broader plant family so will continue to offer live zoom as well as recorded options for most classes. We will be launching a new kitchen medicine series, a revitalized community clinic, all while continuing to share our love of the plants through our core curriculum. 

From my garden to yours,

Maggie O’Halloran
Executive Director, Florida School of Holistic Living


  • Rosemary Mackey

    Exciting! Congratulations to you both, stepping ahead and taking charge, filling the needs for continued growth and expansion. We are fortunate to share these milestones in your lives and in the Florida School of Holistic Living as students and budding community game changers. We have great Role Models in you both. Wishing you my Best heartfelt support. Love, Light and Herbs , RosemaryM

    • Florida School of Holistic Living

      Thank you for such kind and affirming words. We are fortunate to have such dedicated fellow plant students like you to encourage us along the way ????

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