by Brenna Dobos and Bailey Grenert
The UpS internship program, also known as the Medicinal Plant Conservation Certifi cate Program, has played a prominent role in the story of United Plant Savers and the nonprofi t’s lasting impact on the herbal community over the past 25 years. The internship program began in the late 1990s under the guidance of Paul Strauss and continues to inspire plant allies in North America and beyond with two six-week sessions every year.
This experiential program takes place on the 379- acre UpS Botanical Sanctuary in Rutland, Ohio each spring and fall, connecting people to plants—and to each other—in an intimate, intentional, and enduring way. Interns live at the Sanctuary and learn medicinal plant conservation and land stewardship through a variety of hands-on activities. These activities include identifying, cultivating, and making medicine from native plants, attending classes with local herbalists and sustainable forestry experts, and experiencing the ethnobotany of Appalachia through facilitated fi eld trips and independent excursions. After six weeks at the Sanctuary, the “green spark” follows interns home as they move forward with their lives and inspire folks back in their own communities. Many interns go on to study clinical herbalism or sustainable farming, open their own apothecary, educate others about medicinal plant conservation, buy land, and build community. Interns are crucial in spreading the UpS mission far and wide.
In 2017, UpS funded its fi rst AmeriCorps position at the Sanctuary to maintain trails, educate visitors, engage in outreach activities, and build capacity for the growing nonprofit. This position created new opportunities for interns to remain in the area and stay involved in UpS’ vital work. A few former interns have managed to stay in the neighborhood as AmeriCorps service members advocating for medicinal plant conservation and sustainable forestry, educating community members and fellow interns, maintaining the Sanctuary grounds, engaging in service projects in Appalachian Ohio and building capacity for UpS’ nonprofit organization.
Bailey Grenert, Cierra Bailey, and Brenna Dobos are former interns who transplanted to Southeast Ohio for AmeriCorps positions. Bailey and Brenna are the current AmeriCorps members at United Plant Savers, and Cierra completed her term with our partner organization, Rural Action Sustainable Forestry. As AmeriCorps service members, they have been given the opportunity to stay in the community, build capacity at UpS, and gain valuable experience.