The Florida School of Holistic Living is based in Central Florida on unceded Timucua and Seminole territory. We recognize the occupied land on which we grow our gardens, along with the myriad of historical and current traditions alive on these lands from which we borrow our knowledge of plant medicine. Florida is a melting pot of traditions whose people have sought refuge on these sandy soils for generations, through the trade of slaves and the oppression of colonization. We believe mere acknowledgment is not enough to right the historical wrongs of our culture and of herbalism in particular, and work actively with local communities, individual healers, and organizations to support reparations, rematriation of land, and protection of indigenous cultures and their way of life.
The Florida School of Holistic Living is a 501c3 nonprofit educational organization with the mission of cultivating sustainable community by empowering individuals through philosophy-in-practice education that promotes holistic living.
Our programming includes a comprehensive curriculum of plant-centered workshops, continuing education, and professional training. In addition to our classes, we provide the Central Florida community a space to connect with our community, build vibrant health, and deepen our relationship with the earth through our Community Garden, the Florida Herbal Conference, and ongoing special events.
Philosophy-in-practice education offers students the opportunity to “get their hands dirty.” We emphasize a holistic philosophy in all of our courses, a perspective which honors the whole person and their connection to their environment. We then see k to put that philosophy into practice through hands-on educational opportunities, taking our students into the field to connect with the subjects of which they are learning. By empowering our students with the knowledge and experience to live a more fulfilling, sustainable lifestyle, we hope to contribute to a more equitable, peaceful world for future generations.
Founded in 1999 as the Florida School of Herbal Studies, the school first focused on introducing the concepts and practices of holistic living through the science and art of herbalism. Classes were offered in Titusville and Orlando under the direction of herbalist George D’Arcy, hosted at local herb stores and healing centers such as Leaves and Roots and Simply Well. The school’s first building and educational gardens were established in 2005 in Winter Park under the direction of herbalist Emily Ruff. The school relocated to Downtown Orlando in Fall 2006, where it established a full-time campus including the Bodhi Garden, a community teaching and healing space. In Fall 2018, the school expanded to a classroom space in Goldenrod Florida along the Cady Way Trail, continuing to maintain the Bodhi Garden in Downtown Orlando.
As the school’s programming grew, so did our curricula, to serve students and assist them in fully integrating ecological herbalism into their lives. These expanded offerings included more diverse subjects of n atural health including holistic nutrition, iridology, healing with rhythm, and various nutritional theories, as well as sustainable living and urban homesteading topics such as beekeeping, permaculture, and organic gardening. The school formally changed its name to the Florida School of Holistic Living in Fall 2007 to better reflect the full scope of its mission and work in the community.
FSHL has been a driving force in Central Florida’s movement towards environmental consciousness and conservation, offering access to education on traditional philosophies and practices, as well as contemporary technologies, that foster living in harmony with the natural world. The school has been an ardent advocate for United Plant Savers, receiving the first Botanical Sanctuary designation in Florida in 2012. In support of local farmers, the school founded the Homegrown Local Food Cooperative in 2007 to build a sustainable agricultural economy in Central Florida. In 2012, in support of our regional herbal community, the school founded the Florida Herbal Conference.
In 2016, in response to the tragic shooting at Pulse nightclub, we founded the Grief Care Project as a way to deliver the healing power of herbs to our neighbors and community. This project continues to share resources and support towards impacting the possibility for healing grief and trauma in individuals and communities with the support of the plants.
In 2018, we developed a collaborative partnership with the Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary to support the continuing legacy of our inspiration and mentor, herbalist Rosemary Gladstar.
In Spring 2020, all of our programs shifted to a hybrid virtual model, providing online learning with personalized, live-time support from teachers and staff. Our primary campus and in-person classes remain postponed for the safety and health of our teachers and students, with the hope that we can reopen these programs as soon as safely possible.
Carolyn Whitford (1944-2010), herbalist and charter school advisor, founded Leaves and Roots in 1993 to ensure the power of the plants remained in the hands of the people. Carolyn was a community visionary whose steadfastness and generosity provided access to herbal medicine to Central Florida residents for nearly two decades. Carolyn was a supportive advisor in the work of the school since its inception, and became active in the work of the organization by hosting classes in the research room of her store starting in 2001.
George D’Arcy (1952-2005), herbalist and school founder, was a student and apprentice of Dr. John Christopher, Rosemary Gladstar and seven other herbalists whose training motivated him to found the Florida School of Herbal Studies. Certifications as an EMT, Pharmacy Technician, and Nurse Assistant provided a context to bridge the gap between traditional healings and modern systems of wellness, which allowed Mr. D’Arcy a unique position to consult his clients to wellness with an intimate understanding of modern healthcare. As a graduate of advanced programs at the Tracker School with Tom Brown, Mr. D’Arcy’s teachings focused on integrating wellness with a relationship with our natural environment.