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Our Teachers

Debbie Krause

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Debbie Krause is a Central Florida herbalist with a passion for plants, healing and medicine-making. She graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies from Rollins College’s Hamilton Holt School in 1994 and has had a passion for nature and a connection to nature ever since. One of her greatest joys is wandering through the woods here in Florida or up in the mountains of North Carolina.
Debbie began her formal herbal training at the Florida School of Holistic Living and completed the Community Herbalist training under Emily Ruff’s skilled guidance. She has continued her training with a variety of esteemed herbalists including Kim Ellis, Margi Flint, Jody Noe, Phyllis Light, 7Song, Thomas Easley, Michael Cottingham, John Gallagher, Rosalee de la Foret, Sam Coffman and Steven Horne.
Debbie believes that learning never ends and is thankful for every opportunity to learn about herbs, wilderness, and healing. She appreciates every teacher who has crossed her path and believes that “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
While Debbie appreciates every aspect of herbalism, she has a true passion for medicine-making. You can often find her in the kitchen working with fresh roots, creating tinctures and formulas or making her well-known “Deb’s Super Salve” first-aid salve and lip balm. She takes a lighthearted approach and loves the fun, messy nature of herbalism and the cast of characters that has become a core part of her life. She also enjoys teaching others how to take their own health and the health of their families, communities and environment into their own hands.

Emily Ruff

Emily Ruff, founder of the Florida Herbal Conference and 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 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. 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 become active in the organization 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. Most recently, in response to the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Emily founded the Orlando Grief Care Project. From the community relationships cultivated through the national response to this tragedy, Emily has formed the Herbal Action Network to continue weaving the web of compassionate herbalism into community engagement. Her most recent work has taken her to Cannonball, North Dakota where she served with the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council.

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 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.

Dr. Jody E. Noe, MSc, ND

Dr. Jody E. Noé obtained her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. Previous to this, she was awarded her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Dr. Noé served as adjunct faculty to the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine, Quinnipiac University, Connecticut College of Naturopathic Physicians, Bastyr University, the New England Women’s Herbal Conference, Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NIAOM) and several community colleges and private organizations.

A founding member of the Botanical Medicine Academy, Dr. Noé is president emeritus for both the Oklahoma and Vermont Associations of Naturopathic Physicians.

In addition to Family Health Care, Dr. Noe’s areas of specialization include integrative oncology, HIV/Aids and chronic disease. In all instances, Dr. Noé works to facilitate integration of mind, body and spirit, which requires patient participation in their own healing process.

Jon Martin

Jon Martin aka Fungi Jon is a mycology educator and photographer from Central Florida passionate about wild mushrooms. Through relatable, practical, and witty ways of instructing, he inspires others to dive into the world of mycology and explore nature intentionally. From their significant role in an ecosystem, to their beauty and potential in bioremediation & medicine, Jon is inspired by mushrooms and spends as much time as possible out in nature getting to know their many forms.
As a community mycologist, he leads educational mushroom hikes, instructs mushroom classes at various locations including the Florida School of Holistic Living, and conducts periodic fungi surveys on designated properties. He records data for local parks and mycologists, photographs local species to educate others & share with the world, and makes contributions to mycology research at the University of Florida. He is also a foray leader and trusted identifier with the Florida Academic Lichen & Fungi Enthusiasts League based out of the University of Florida.

Leann Hill

Leann Hill is an herbalist in Orlando, FL. She has been learning about herbs her whole life, but only formally studying since 2010. She has many varying interests including music, cooking, and history, and she tries to incorporate these into her herbal practices. She has been honored to be able to study under herbalist Emily Ruff as well as other various herbalists who teach at the Florida School of Holistic Living. She also writes weekly articles at www.BatLadyHerbals.com and relishes the chance to learn as much as possible about the wonderful world of herbs.

Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray
A plant walk at Mead Gardens five years ago with Emily Ruff, rekindled a love of plants and the power of wellness they possess.  Since that fateful day, Lisa Ray plunged into an intensive study of health, wellness and herbalism.  She graduated from Florida School of Holistic Living’s Community Herbalist program in 2016, training with Emily Ruff.  Then in 2016 she made the decision to leave her native Florida and move to Low Gap, North Carolina.  Under the guidance of Thomas Easley and Matthew Wood, she completed the 11-month Intensive Advanced Clinical Herbalist Program at the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine.  Spending time in the school’s 400 acre nature sanctuary was a once in a lifetime experience that she will cherish forever.  In a quest to learn from a variety of herbalists, Lisa has also attended classes with Jim McDonald, Marc Williams, Erika Galatin, Sam Coffman, Steven Horne and Guido Mase’.  Lisa has also completed levels 1 & 2 of the Bach Flower Essence Training Program.

Maggie O'Halloran

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Maggie is an herbalist and educator in Central Florida. She comes from a large family where chaos was the norm. She always found peace outside watching things grow or climbing magnolia trees. One of her older brothers was considered hyperactive and had a hard time staying in school. Because of the impact food had on his behavior they had no sugar in the house, including ketchup! She learned in her mother’s kitchen that the things you put in your mouth impact your mind and your body.

In the early 90’s she first found her own inspiration to view health from a holistic perspective while working as a teacher assistant at a mental health hospital for children. From that experience, she decided that there had to be a better way to help kids beyond medicating them to a zombie state with pharmaceuticals. She started college studying education and psychology and ultimately received a bachelor’s degree in Human Development.

In 1999 she took her love of plants to Oakland, California where she worked with inner city elementary students and teachers, learning and teaching about violence prevention and anger management through physical education and body awareness. She explored working with food, exercise, breathing, and communication skills. She continued to study plants and their medicine by sharing with friends.

In 2006 she moved to Florida to find a slower pace in life. Though her love of teaching hasn’t waned, she took the opportunity to focus on deepening her plant knowledge in a more intentional way with herb walks with Emily Ruff. Since then she has found inspiration from teachers like Phyllis Light, Rosemary Gladstar, David Winston to name a few and mostly Emily Ruff. Finishing the community herbalist program in May of 2015. She continues her passion for helping people find peace by sharing her knowledge with whomever will listen. She enjoys working with friends, family, and strangers seeking a more holistic way to be healthy.

These days she can be found hiking on trails, tending her garden, creating something good for you in her kitchen, teaching in her community about plant medicine, and learning from her six-year-old herbalist and his friends.

Nina DiCristina

Nina DiCristina is a practicing herbalist in Orlando, FL. She’s been studying herbalism and holistic health since 2008, and is a graduate of the Community Herbalist program at the Florida School of Holistic Living. She’s been grateful to study with Emily Ruff, Rosemary Gladstar, and Guido Masé. She has taught at the Florida School of Holistic Living, Sage Mountain Retreat Center, and Ground Floor Farm. A seeker of knowledge, she studies mythology, ethnobotany, and anthropology in her spare time. She is a scorpio, ISFP, slytherin, swamp bending, plant person.

Shannon Lockhart


Shannon Lockhart is a Mother, Folk Herbalist and light-worker. As a healer, her passion in life has become empowering others by helping them learn how to be responsible for their personal health and well-being. With such a busy life and being mindful of the fact the she is human and not immune to the external stressors in our world, Shannon decided to implement yoga into her daily routine. After attending yoga regularly, she was pleased with how yoga helped her off the mat in every aspect of her life. Having crossed paths with a wonderful teacher by the name of Tymi Howard and feeling blessed to be a part of the beautifully spirited community of like-minded individuals she helped grow, she was in Love! Shannon soon decided she wanted to deepen her practice and began teacher training the following summer. Shannon has been teaching yoga ever since and is truly humbled by the opportunity and experience. Allowing yoga to take a key role in her life has been essential as it has opened doors to new positive opportunities, new friends, and most importantly opened her heart! Shannon wants to share her passion and love for yoga with others, knowing it will have many positive effects in their lives as well.

Stephen Kane


Stephen Kane is a passionate teacher, with a master’s degree in education he spent many years inside the classroom. He currently works at Bok Tower Gardens as a Garden Educator. His lifelong love of plants has taken him many interesting places as he continues to answer the call of the plants. His passion is ethnobotany, especially man’s call from the natural world to be in balance with the earth. He is a earth-skills practitioner learning and teaching others valuable lessons of survival living. He is blessed to learn from Emily Ruff and all the amazing teachers at the Florida School of Holistic living where he completed the community herbalist program. Stephen shares his life with his wife Sara and we are most proud of our two children who continue to teach and inspire us.

North Florida Branch Teachers

Phoenix Fermin

phoenixPhoenix Fermin is a Community Herbalist and Director of Development for non-profit Lichgate on High Road, a historic site in Tallahassee, FL.
Her great passion for gardening rooted in 1998 at a home-based plant nursery. There she learned about planting, cultivating, harvesting, transplanting, and propagation. Her love of gardening grew and she began her herbal studies in 2006, teaching yoga for Herbalist Rose Kalajian at The Natural Health Hut in Wesley Chapel, FL and Bob Linde at Acupuncture & Herbal Therapies (AcuHerbals) in St. Petersburg, FL. In 2012, she attended the first Florida Herbal Conference with Rosemary Gladstar as the keynote speaker. Inspired and deepening her connection to the plants, she furthered her studies over the course of several years at the Florida School of Holistic Living with Herbalist, Emily Ruff. Phoenix continues to expand her herbal knowledge through classes in all aspects of herbal medicine, clinical practice, and hands-on gardening experience; as there is no end to the depth of knowledge that we learn from our plant allies. She provides herbal consultations and offers a variety of herbal products through her blooming business, Sacred Tree Herbals. Phoenix is a Certified Yoga Instructor, children’s book Illustrator and Author for AppleTree Institute in Washington, DC, and has enjoyed working in education with the Florida Department of Education, Full Sail University, and Cornell University. In the past, she has enjoyed teaching preschool children by developing daily lesson plans, yoga instruction on a weekly basis, and designed and implemented the school gardens. With her love of gardening and serving the community, she also served as Executive Director for non-profit Damayan Garden Project. Phoenix has taught seminars at New Leaf Market, Tallahassee Nurseries, Florida State University, Sustainable Tallahassee, Roots Roundtable at the Florida School of Holistic Living, and Lichgate on High Road. Phoenix is the Regional Director for the Florida School of Holistic Living North Florida Branch.

Ghita Heidt

ghitaSince Ghita was a young girl she has been mesmerized by the world of plants, always exploring her surroundings to find out what plants could be used for medicine or
food. This fascination for plants continued into adulthood and has turned into a long life passion. For 12 years Ghita had a small natural body care business where she created all kinds of herbal products for people to care for their bodies in a healing and holistic way. Later in life she returned to university to finish her degree in Plant Sciences with the intent to protect the plants and the knowledge of people connected to these healing plants for future generations. Ghita also spends her summers abroad in Spain with forays into France, Portugal and elsewhere learning about the useful plants of these areas and connecting with others that have roots in the botanical world.

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Susan Anderson

fullsizerenderSusan Anderson, is the owner and operator of Native Naturals Farm. Her family has lived on and worked the same land since 1826. The farm produces organically grown herbs, nuts and fruits as well as grass fed beef. She comes from a long line of herbalists and healers. She began the study native plant medicine, collecting, growing and preparing, with her grandmother who was a well respected midwife and nurse. She is of both Creek and Cherokee descent and has learned from traditional healers throughout the southeast. She is a traditional ceremonial person and draws heavily on her cultural roots in her relationship with the growing world.

She has worked as a resource planner, journalist, educator and as a natural resource interpretive writer. She has served as executive director for two nonprofits and consultant on numerous environmental and cultural projects.

Her love of the land and respect for the food, fiber and medicinal value of native plants has been a guiding force in her life. She is a traditional fiber artist working primarily with native plant fibers and dyes. She has developed an intimate and comprehensive understanding of her land, it’s ecosystems and cycles and how these things relate to the unique “medicine of place”.

Her non traditional academic education includes degrees in sociology and religion from Florida State University. Graduate studies in urban and regional planning at FSU and cultural sustainability at Goucher College in Baltimore MD.

Vicki McGee

vickihead-shotVicki McGee, is a biologist, herbalist and permaculture designer of Cherokee and Catawba descent. She and her family have been
practicing traditional medicine for many generations and she is a member of both Cherokee and Miscogee creek traditional communities. Coming from a family of farmers and orange growers her relationship with plants began early. She spent several years living “off the grid” on a barrier island in south Florida where she raised her oldest son and became immersed in sustainable living practices. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge of “living lightly” on the planet and has been asked to help design sustainable curriculum for local schools.
She currently resides in Key Largo, Florida where she is the Research Project Coordinator for the Florida Bay Inter-agency Science Center.

Ari O'Hara

ariAri O’Hara was raised among the beautiful Pine trees of Tallahassee, Florida. She graduated from FSU with a degree in Art History,
but where her heart truly lies is in peace with Mother Nature and all her plant allies. After high school, she wanted to forgo college and instead begin down her herbal path, hoping to travel to North Carolina and work with Juliet Blankespoore at the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. It was not until the beginning of 2013, however, that the world of herbalism opened up to Ari. After becoming incredibly ill, and healing herself of her ailments with the aid of locally foraged plants and fungi, she knew that in order to be truly healthy, happy and whole, she needed to finally take the Green Path to becoming an herbalist. Ari began making her own healing tinctures, salves and herbal infusions through self-study, and began her own small business called Valley Green Herbs, which she still runs today. In 2015, Ari went to her first Florida Herbal Conference, an event that changed her life in so many amazing ways. She got to meet, work with and learn from countless inspiring herbalists, among them was the ever inspiring and radiant Emily Ruff, Bob Linde, Joanna Helms, keynote speaker and noted herbalist Steven Foster, and the lovely Juliet Blankespoore herself. Being immersed in the world she loved fueled Ari’s passion for healing and her life has never been the same. Since then she has continued learning and expanding her lovingly made herbal products, received a certificate in Traditional Mexican Medicine (Curanderismo) with Eliseo “Cheo” Torres from the University of New Mexico, has travelled to the 2016 Florida Herbal Conference to meet Paul Stamets and continue her education, and now teaches classes on herbalism and healing to those who want to learn form the comfort of her own home in Havana, Florida.
Ari is currently working on a certificate through the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine to complete a six-month, in depth course on Medicine Making. Ari’s goals for the future are to become a certified clinical herbalist in order to help heal those in need and to continue teaching about the incredible power of plant medicine. Ari is also proud to be working with Emily Ruff and Phoenix Fermin to open a branch of The Florida School of Holistic Living in Tallahassee. When she’s not busy reading about plants, making medicine, working in her garden or out foraging for wild edibles, Ari spends her time learning and practicing Ashtanga Yoga, as well as learning the ancient Sanskrit language, which her plants particularly love to hear her speak. She also loves crystals and stones, and loves to blend crystal essences into her herbal preparations for their added healing benefits.

Honey Hilliard

HoneyHilliardHeadshotIf you are a Floridian, you have likely seen the art of Honey Hilliard. Her paintings are featured on Florida’s bird identification
poster. She created the paintings 20 years ago, and the posters have been in circulation ever since, at state parks, wildlife refuges, schools and libraries all over Florida. Since the creation of those extremely detailed bird paintings, Hilliard’s art has become progressively bigger, brighter and bolder. A talented, prolific artist and entrepreneur, Honey creates soulful, vibrant paintings, thick with texture, rich with color and alive with energy. After receiving an art degree from Florida State University, she was employed by the State of Florida as a bird and wildlife artist. For the last 16 years, Honey has honed her abilities as a successful freelance artist. Honey’s interactive children’s book, Looking for Butterflies©, was published in 2012, and takes place at St Marks Refuge, is available at bookstores and www.LookingforButterflies.com. Honey spent the summer of 2013 studying and working as an assistant at an Artist Retreat Center, a trip that resulted in a body of oil and pastel paintings, “The French Collection”, another of several ongoing series such as “The Bejeweled Forest”, a collection of jeweled, crowned creatures with gold leaf and decorative fibonacci swirls. Honey’s art has been featured in many publications, calendars and books. Her work has been commissioned and collected by clients across the US and internationally.

Bridget Noel Jones

Bridget Noel Jones is a Licensed Massage Therapist for 20 years, a Kundalini Yoga teacher for 18 years, and has been living a holistically healthy lifestyle using herbs, nutrition, vegetarianism, and many modalities for herself and her family for over 20 years. Bridget is passionate about healing and loves empowering others with the knowledge to keep themselves well.

Denise Williams

Denise describes herself as an ex-R.N. (Registered Nurse). After working in the Western medical system for 28 years she became frustrated with sick care and decided to dedicate herself to learning/teaching how to live a healthy lifestyle. She supplemented her Bachelor of Science degree with a Diploma in Complimentary Alternative Medicine (CAM). The CAM degree focused on a dual major in herbalism and aromatherapy. She also expanded her long term yoga practice into a teaching role by acquiring her 200 RYT certification. Her ultimate goal is to see herbal medicine become a part of the daily life, just as it used to be in the past.

Jill Welch

Jill Welch is a natural foods educator and chef with over 20 years of experience in helping people improve their diet and lifestyle, lose weight and stabilize their moods by adopting a natural foods way of life. For more information on cleanse classes, health consultations, wellness coaching, recipes or health tips visit www.thekitchengoddess.com.

Heather Diamond

Heather has been an educator for 22 years beginning as a classroom teacher and then a case manager for a research project jointly run by pediatric neurology and education at the University of Florida. She later became an independent consultant, presenting at local and national conferences and providing training, coaching, and support related to improving education. Heather joined the Florida Department of Education and the University of South Florida to coordinate and facilitate statewide efforts for implementing a unified, integrated, data-based multi-tiered system of supports and lead improvements for school counseling, social work, psychology, and nursing. Heather’s work in education included a passion for the multiple dimensions of health for both students and teachers. While working at the Department, she attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, NYC, and earned her certification in holistic health coaching. Heather routinely embedded her passion for health into her life and work, opening and closing otherwise conventional meetings with yoga and mindfulness practices and sharing strategies with her team on healthy work/life balance. She became known in her career for a quirky fixation on natural living, wholesome eating, walking meetings, and yoga breaks. The Department featured an article on her healthy routines and coworkers sought her advice and support daily. Heather now devotes her time to providing health coaching and education in contribution to the food revolution. Her interest is in improving our society’s kitchen culture and our relationship with food, our bodies, and the planet. Heather’s integrative approach provides her clients with the crucial connections between the dimensions of health, life and happiness.

Alannah Brown

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Alannah Brown, MS, Ed.S., LMHC.  Alannah brings diverse knowledge to the staff.  She currently practices as a Mental Health Counselor, herbalist, and Tai Chi instructor.   Her practice is holistic and based on the notion that all parts of a person must be addressed in order to have true healing.    She wishes to present seminars in the practical aspects of using herbs at home and in the community to promote joyous health, radiant well-being, and increased consciousness.  This season, she will present on Fermentation for Mood Stability and the Alchemical Art of Distillation. 

Sallie Dixon

Sallie Dixon is an Advanced Student with the East West School of Planetary Herbology. Studying traditional energetic systems including TCM, Ayurveda and ‘Western’ approaches to the uses of plants. The EW program integrates plants and diagnostic tools from multiple traditional systems. An avid learner, continually expanding and enhancing her formal schooling, Sallie attends conferences, symposiums, workshops and webinars from a wide variety of nationally and internationally known practitioners and educators. It wasn’t until 2008 that Sallie began to focus on incorporating plants into her life after an acupuncturist recommended herbs to improve her health and encouraged her interest. Since then plants have become an integral part of her life – and her family’s – both as food and medicine. She also utilizes energetic principles and herbs to treat her horses, dogs and cats. Sallie maintains a limited clinical practice in the Tallahassee area where she works with people from a nutritional and lifestyle perspective, incorporating herbs as appropriate for the individual and their constitution. She lives in rural Gadsden County near Tallahassee and enjoys tending an unruly collection of herbs and other plants.