by Bailey Grenert and Brenna Dobos

ups grand opening

United Plant Savers’ 25th Anniversary was celebrated on the Fall Equinox, September 21-22, 2019 at the UpS Botanical Sanctuary in Rutland, Ohio. The occasion also marked the Grand Opening of the Center for Medicinal Plant Conservation, a momentous achievement for UpS in our 25th year. We are grateful to have shared the celebration with 250 of our friends, family, neighbors, plant allies, and longtime members from all over North America. The two-day event featured presentations by Rosemary Gladstar, Paul Strauss, and Steven Foster as well as performances by 1,000 Faces Mask Theater, Doug Elliot, Høly River and Intermittent Animals.

The festivities were kicked off by an unparalleled performance from 1,000 Faces Mask Theater of Rappahannock County, Virginia depicting threats posed to medicinal plants by human activities. 1,000 Faces evoked an emotional response from the crowd and ended on a message of intentional stewardship in ecological recovery.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Rosemary Gladstar’s heartfelt welcome address told the story of United Plant Savers’ creation and how it coincided with the birth of the modern herbal renaissance. Following this, Paul Strauss gave a moving speech that detailed his introduction to herbal medicine, sustainable farming, and his deep connection to the land and community in which UpS plays a defining role. Paul and Rosemary organized fellow herbalists to form United Plant Savers in 1994 as a nonprofit dedicated to native medicinal plant conservation. Together they instilled a sense of community centered on the UpS Botanical Sanctuary and influenced change in the greater herbal community.

Distinguished author and photographer, Steven Foster presented a heartfelt dedication to Dr. James A. Duke, the beloved botanist for whom the Jim and Peggy Duke Center for Medicinal Plant Conservation is dedicated. Dr. Duke and Peggy Kessler Duke, his wife and botanical illustrator, published several preeminent texts covering botanical and herbal medicine resources. Foster and Duke teamed up on notable publications including the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants of Eastern and Central North America. In addition, a memorial ceremony for Duke was held at Heart Pond by those who knew him closely. Some of his ashes were spread across the pond in remembrance of his life and gifts to the herbal community.

The evening’s entertainment began with Doug Elliot, an herbalist, naturalist, and storyteller from North Carolina, who set the tone for a night of music and celebration. A longtime friend of UpS, Elliot captured the audience with his harmonica playing, vivid storytelling, and lively singalong songs accompanied by Jameson Price of Høly River.

Høly River (formerly Lobo Marino), an experimental folk duo from Richmond, Virginia, performed a powerful set with themes of water protection and environmental and political activism. Between sets, Nathan Wright gave a short speech connecting the themes of activism in Høly River’s music with the mission of UpS. Wright is one of the leaders of MackinawOde (Heart of the Turtle), a water protection action group in Michigan.

The Intermittent Animals from Columbus, Ohio lightened the mood with upbeat folk jams that got the crowd dancing. Eventually, the evening wound down with late night campfi re songs, dips in Heart Pond, and sleepy campers wandering back to their tents.

On Sunday guided hikes were led by Marc Williams, Tanner Filyaw, Lonnie Galt-Theis, Betzy Bancroft, Rebecca Wood, and Chip Carroll. Each guide shared extensive plant knowledge and personal UpS stories with their group.

We are immensely grateful to our members who made this event possible—we couldn’t do this without you all. Thank you to the native medicinal plants and their habitats that inspired the creation of United Plant Savers.

Finally, thank you to everyone who joined us for this special weekend. Stay tuned for a fall, 2020 UpS reunion featuring workshops, music, hikes, and camping at the Ohio Sanctuary!