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2015 Herb Gatherings in the Pacific Northwest

Compiled and reviewed by Michael Pilarski, January 27, 2015 version
In 2003 I published an article titled “22-Year History of Herb Gatherings and Conferences in the Pacific Northwest”. It was a list of herbal events from 1980 to 2002 with a bit about their history, size, admission prices, etc. I have been publishing annual calendars off and on since then. Here is my 2015 list. 14 events in this version and 3 of them are starting in 2015. This information is offered as a service to the herbal community in general.
Bastyr Herb and Food Fair
May 30, 2015, Saturday. The 15thth Annual. A one-day, free event held in Seattle at the campus of Bastyr University at the north end of Lake Washington. Bastyr is one of the foremost naturopathic schools in the US. The gathering attracts up to 1,000. They always have a nice line-up of speakers, workshops, vendors and garden walks. Bastyr’s herb garden is one of the best I have seen and is well worth a visit anytime.
Breitenbush Herbal Conference
The oldest herbal gathering in the nation. Their 28th annual event happened September 4-7, 2014. Set, deep in the Cascades near Detroit, Oregon, Breitenbush Hot Springs is a great venue offering hot springs and ancient forests.  They always have a long list of excellent teachers.  A gathering of professionals.
Dandelion Seed Conference
Their 3rd annual was held on Oct 17-19, 2014 at The Evergreen State College. A benefit for the Olympia Free Herbal Clinic. A conference based on accessibility, empowerment, dismantling oppression, supporting community health and building herbal skills.
Green Gathering, Washington Annual, Supported by the American Herbalist Guild
June 5-6-7, 2015.
Join us for the second annual Green Gathering! During this three-day event we'll camp beside the beautiful beaches and towering trees of the Pacific Northwest (Camano Island State Park), celebrating our herbal community and shared love of the plants. We will have an incredible lineup of local teachers, a tea tent, bartering space, and entertainment as well as children's activities. Our theme in 2015 is Integrative Herbalism: Cultivating Professionalism in the Clinical and Community Setting. Cost for a 3-day pass $65 - includes camping and classes. We will be camping in the State Park so bring a tent.
Montana Herb Gathering
June 26th - 28th, 2015, Montana Learning Center, Helena MT.
A sweet, regional herb gathering which was started in 1998. The MHG is an annual event bringing together herbalists, wildcrafters, manufacturers, farmers, students and other herbal enthusiasts from across Montana and around our bioregion. The MHG always brings in a great set of teachers including notable herbalists from outside the region. Generally it attracts around 150 people. There was a three-year hiatus from 2004 to 2006. It was canceled in 2014. Great to see it back in 2015.
Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium
Session 1: May 15-18, 2015
Session 2: May 22-25, 2015
Session 3: September 4-7, 2015
The Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium began in 1991, as an inspiration from the Women Herbalist’s conference in southern Oregon, whose vision it was to see gatherings of this nature all across the country. Three times a year women from many backgrounds of life gather together in great celebration for four full days of inspiring Herbal and Sustainability classes, gourmet vegetarian meals, talented campfire capers, amazing handcrafted marketplace items, Rites-of-Passage Ceremonies, powerful campfire drumming and dancing, refreshing swimming hole dips, and conversations with remarkable & inspiring women!
Northwest Herb Symposium
August 27-30, 2015
Hosted at the historic Camp Casey on Whidbey Island.
 Pacific Women's Herbal Conference
September 25, 26, 27, 28, 2015, Monroe, WA
4th annual. Women gathering in the Wise Woman Tradition of Healing. Join us for a gathering of women in the Cascadia foothills, swimming in a warm lake, under a full moon lunar eclipse, fire circles, delicious local food...If that is not enough, we'll throw in experiential workshops, a talent show, massage, reiki, herbal medicine making, practical skill building, herb walks and so much more to nourish and tonify ourselves, our families, our planet.
Plants enChant
July 31 - Aug. 2, 2015. Near Salem, Oregon
Another brand-new herb gathering in 2015. Plants enChant is a gathering intended to develop and strengthen medicine culture thru the healing arts of education, songs, ceremony, community.   It recognizes ‘medicines’ as the force of nature that cures dis-ease, that takes us from being sick to being free.  This event aligns more with ‘deep herbalism’, which cultivates a relationship thru plants to the healing presence of Nature. It recognizes plants as the greenprint of all medicines.  It acknowledges plants as elders in the society of nature as it exists on planet earth, and therefore teachers to the adolescent human species.
Portland Plant Medicine
Started in 2009. A small, regionally-focused, exciting gathering. Their 2014 event (6th annual) was held November 15-16-17. The Portland Plant Medicine Gathering is an event that happens yearly in the late Fall in Portland, Oregon.  It is a time for us to celebrate the plants and their medicine and share knowledge with one another.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky to be surrounded by so many powerful plant allies and so many amazing Herbalists and Teachers. 
Inland Northwest Herbalists Gathering and Spokane Herbal Fair
May 8-10, 2015
This is a first time event which we hope will become an annual herb gathering. Friday and Saturday is a rural, camp-out event for herbalists and herbal students. It will focus on workshops, getting acquainted, and round tables to share information, insights and questions. Sunday will be a large herbal products trade show in Spokane which the general public can attend by donation. Herbalists from around the Inland Northwest, and beyond, are invited to participate. The goal is to have an event that meets the needs of herbalists and people seriously interested; and, at the same time, host an event which draws in hundreds of people wanting an introduction and interested in seeing what products and services are available. We are looking for workshop teachers and exhibitors. Anyone interested should email Michael Pilarski. [email protected]
Spring Equinox Herbalist Gathering
Two Equinox gatherings yearly, Spring and Autumn.  Held at Darcy Williamson’s Mavens’ Haven Retreat in McCall, Idaho. Each Equinox brings in around 50 students.  When junior apprentices graduate to senior apprentices, their obligation to the program is to teach.  Mavens' Haven offers an opportunity to practice and refine their teaching skills.  The senior apprentices put together small, intimate classes with 8 to 12 students, pick their topic and the length of time they need to teach it and set their price.  Their classes don't have to be herb related, but they need to be hands-on for their students. 
Traditional Roots Herbal Conference!
May 15-17, 2015. 2nd annual
This conference is for clinicians, community herbalists and everyone interested in herbal medicine as a key component to reclaiming health.  National College of Natural Medicine. Portland, Oregon. We’ll have sessions covering constitutional evaluation, herbal energetics, formulation, hands-on medicine making, gardening with medicinal plants, bioregional herbalism and wildcrafting, and botanical field applications. Sponsorships range from $1500 to $10,000.
Viridis Genii Symposium: Magic, Mysticism, & Medicine
July 31st, August 1st & 2nd, 2015 in Damascus, Oregon.  1st Annual.
Our goal is to be the first herbal conference to offer a holistic multidisciplinary and multicultural awareness and approach to the study of plants from the perspective of magick. Herbal Alchemy, Wortcunning, Ethno botany and the magickal use of plants, Wild crafting with spirit, Herbal Astrology, Medicine with a focus on spiritual herbal practice, Shamanry, Witchcraft, Indigenous Traditional plant wisdom, Entheogen studies and ritual practice, The role of plants in ceremonial magick traditions, Herbal Charms and Talismans, Artists whose main body of work focuses on plants, craft brewing and distilling, and much more.
Northwest Herbal Fair
Not happening in 2015. The 4th year in a row of no show.
A short history. The Northwest Herbal faire ran for 10 consecutive years from 1996 to 2005. There was a 5-year hiatus and then the 11th was held in 2011. Michael Pilarski has always been one of the main coordinators. The NHF has traditionally been held at the River Farm on the south fork of the Nooksack River outside of Van Zandt, near Bellingham, Washington. The only one of the first ten not held there was the 9th NHF, 2004, near Leavenworth in eastern Washington. Back at Van Zandt in 2005 for the tenth annual event we had our largest crowd ever with 1,200 attending. Another fantastic time but there was a fire event that took the wind out of our sails. No NHFs were held between 2006 and 2010. In 2011 the original organizing team got back together at a new venue in Skagit County, the Fire Mountain Scout Camp outside of Sedro Woolley.  It was a great venue and we had a sweet time. 900 people attended. We had 75 presenters, 125 workshops, 65 vendors and a full line of stage entertainment. It was awesome. Alas, Fire Mountain Camp wasn’t available in 2012, so we lost our momentum and are wandering in the desert (excuse me, I mean we are all incredibly busy). Another resurrection is possible. I am currently compiling a list of people willing to help organize another NHF. Anyone interested should email Michael Pilarski. [email protected]
Every one of these gatherings is worth going to. The more herb gatherings the merrier in my opinion. Small, large, local, regional, national, international. They each fill a niche, Each has its own unique flavor. I love to go to herbal gatherings to learn and interact. Some people on the herb gathering national circuit go to many herb gatherings every year.  How many do you attend?
People go to herbal gatherings for many reasons:
* Exchange of information.  The exchange of information takes place in many ways. Workshops, keynote speeches, panels, and round tables as well as the huge amount of dialogue that takes places in the hallways, trade shows and mealtimes. 
* Build a network of friends and associates.  Friendships are perhaps the most important aspect of these gatherings. Friendships lead to collaboration, cooperation, synthesis, and inspiration.
* Boost the energy of participants by being in a large peer group. Large gatherings are invigorating and the effects last long after the event is over.
* Reach the general public and mentoring of young/new people interested in herbs. 
* Herb gatherings are great places to get insights on how to deal with health challenges
Please send additions or corrections to Michael Pilarski:

Going organic. Bhutan and Kerala, India set the pace

Hi farmers and friends,

I couldn’t resist sending this information on.

Bhutan could within a decade become the first country in the world to go wholly organic in its food production, according to key politicians in the Himalayan kingdom. Political parties in the Himalayan kingdom unite to eradicate chemical fertilizers and pesticides as part of its Gross National Happiness program.  Agriculture and forests minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho, who held the post in the previous government, say there is a united commitment to rid the country of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

For a detailed article go HERE.

I am just now reading a 2014 book “India’s Organic Farming Revolution: What it Means for our Global Food System”. Written by Sapna E. Thattathil.

The title is somewhat misleading since almost all the coverage is on the state of Kerala. Kerala is arguably one of the most progressive states in India and is frequently cited as one of the best examples on the international scene of a socially-equitable society. It is also a big producer of agricultural exports, particularly spices and 80% of agricultural production is exported. In 2010, the elected prime minister and LDF party in power at the time, actually made it policy to turn the entirety of the state organic within a ten year period. Organic farming was now officially a part of the Agriculture Department’s mandate. In 2011, the LDF government in Kerala decided to ban nearly 20 types of highly toxic insecticides. The subsequent government is not as favorable but has not reversed the policy.

Of course there are a lot of steps that went into developing the kind of government that would champion organic agriculture. The book does into the history of Kerala since India’s independence. Suffice it to say that in 1996 Kerala’s government launched the People’s Campaign for Decentralized Planning. This became popularly known as the People’s Plan. “The People’s Plan gave local village communities called grama sabhas control over 35 to 40% of the state’s annual planning budget. These individual communities now decide how to use state funds within their constituency.” Quote from Thattathil. These local planning groups did extensive inventorying of local resources and ecosystems in the process of developing local plans.

India’s 2002 National Biodiversity Bill called for each state to establish a Biodiversity Board. The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) was formed in 2005. One of their projects is the People’s Biodiversity Register which works with the Peoples Plan network to “set up projects throughout Kerala to collect information about the history and uses of plants and animals, as well as traditional knowledge about them while fostering local participation in the government management of resources.” Quote from Thattathil.

In 2007 the Biodiversity Board began to look at agriculture and it was quickly obvious that the use of pesticides in particular were badly damaging Kerala’s biodiversity. With the support of the prime minister (like a US governor) the Board developed a document to gradually phase out chemical pesticides. It would make organic the state policy. Led to its logical conclusion, non-organic farming would become illegal. Not surprisingly there was big pushback by the agricultural establishment, ag schools and extension. They produced a watered down version.  After over a year of negotiations the organic proponents were able to get a relatively strong bill passed making organic the preferred government agriculture policy.

I have read a lot of international literature on agroforestry and Kerala has often been mentioned as one of the hotspots for traditional agroforestry mixed farming systems. The permaculture literature also contains a lot of references to the traditional systems in Kerala. This treasure trove of traditional agroforestry systems is shrinking due to agricultural policy which promotes and subsidizes chemical, export agriculture. These traditional systems will be encouraged if the organic crowd wins.

It will be very interesting to watch how this turns out in Kerala. Will the people’s movements win out or the lackeys of globalization?  Stay tuned.

If this piques your interest and you want to know more you can buy the book from Amazon for $11.43 at the moment.

 If you don’t mind reading on a computer you can view a version of the book HERE. This link is to her Dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley.

In this conversation it should be pointed out that some counties in the USA have passed initiatives which ban NGOs. Josephine County, Oregon being one of the recent ones.  Maui, Hawaii and Kauai counties in the state of Hawaii have also passed anti GMO initiatives. Monsanto, etc. are taking this all to court, but there is no doubt that popular support for organic is growing.

THE BIG PICTURE - Book Review: "Energy Basis for Man and Nature" by Howard T. Odum and Elisabeth C. Odum

I want to promote a book I just read:  "Energy Basis for Man and Nature" by Howard T. Odum and Elisabeth C. Odum. 1970. McGraw-Hill Book Co. I just ran across a copy in a used bookstore in Darby, Montana.  I recognized it as a book that David Holmgren, co-founder of permaculture, cited a lot.  

The Odum’s were very priescent in their book. Here we are 34 years later and the world is still galloping away down the wrong path.  The Odum’s particularly said that money supply should be constricted and not increased to go through the transition safely.  Instead the central banks have gone crazy with expanding the money supply with their quantitative easings. Exactly opposite.

The Odum's were pre-peak oil. Their book intertwines ecology and energy demands by humans. They clearly predicted the collapse if humanity continued down its then current path.  The ecology is big picture stuff.  It will take several re-readings to grasp that part.

They devoted a bit of the book to what path humanity needs to take if we are to avoid a large, messy population collapse.  Alas, we have taken the path to collapse. Several points piqued my interest.

If humanity were to discover a new. large energy source to surpass our fossil fuel subsidies that humans would quickly so pollute and destroy the natural world that only insects and micro-organisms would survive.  This is one of the reasons I am not into new energy sources. 

That pollution, like population, peaks later than peak oil.  Population falls. This is shortly followed by much less pollution. Following this thread of thought, future society will have less population and live in a cleaner, less-polluted environment.

The Odums say that the way for humanity to thrive is to base society on the solar energy of the sun, transformed by healthy ecosystems into renewable resources.

A good book for people who like to look at the big picture & ecosystem flows.

Find the book on-line