The Florida Herbal Conference was a complete blast, but the unexpected theme for me was connections. I was so busy, I only caught a few shots with my cell phone camera, so please excuse the poor photos.
This was half of the merchant circle, and shows some of the trees covering Camp Winona. The site was gorgeous, easy to navigate, and March in Florida is blessedly mosquito-free. The cabin beds were terrible, but they were clean and warm. The only thing at the conference I heard real complaints about was the food on the meal plan. I’m glad I brought my own food.
I only attended a few workshops- a class on moxa with Bob Linde, and the class on growing medicinal and culinary herbs in Florida by James Steele. James Steele is a long-time acquaintance and he was one of the professionals supporting my grant proposal. I was able to chat with him about my second try for the grant after his class and he gave me some great suggestions.
Saturday afternoon was the regional breakout session. Each region of Florida had its own space where locals could meet and talk in person. I got to meet herbalists from the local facebook group in person and some new locals, too. After the breakout session was “free time”. Free time at a conference? What a great idea! I decided to browse the merchant area, and ended up in a long passionate conversation about composting, gardening, food security vs homeowners associations in subdivisions, the concept of food miles, and local food culture with a brand-new gardener from Tampa. I never would have taken the time to relax in the market area if the workshops had been scheduled all day long. I met two new plant geeks who were both excited about my farm plans and gave me tons of suggestions for further networking- Willow LaMonte, who owns Willow Herbal Delight Gardens in Valrico and Bob Linde, acupuncturist and herbalist in St. Pete. Bob Linde happened to mention in his class Saturday morning that he grew Chinese medicinal herbs in his backyard garden, and we ended up chatting for over an hour Sunday morning about growing herbs, the Chinese medicine trade, herbal conference suggestions… inspiring and powerful connections for me.
Then I packed up and headed off to the wilds of Marion County to visit David Goodman, his lovely family, and his new nursery, Florida Food Forests, Inc. David writes Florida Survival Gardening and we have been commenting on each others’ blogs for a while now and met in person finally at the Florida Earthskills Gathering. He has a one-acre homestead with a diverse food forest. There were so many interesting projects going on there, I could have stayed all day. He send me home with water chestnuts to plant in the pond, a baby curry leaf plant, and an edible leaf hibiscus to try. I hope he can come up here soon.