In a flurry of words, spoken like an old friend you’re catching up with over tea, chapter coordinator Stephany Hoffelt will paint you a clear picture of Iowa City. When we speak, Iowa City has the hue of a college town with a passionate civically-engaged populace forced to take risks with little guidance.
“Iowa is the only state that didn’t have a mask mandate at one point and the Governor refused to allow online schooling. Within the Midwest people know that Iowa is a mess, especially Iowa City.”
Over the summer the state of Iowa and Iowa City were in the throes of a dual-sided crisis. Almost half of all admissions at UIHC tested for Covid were positive and unrest triggered by the May killing of George Floyd saw increasing numbers of people gather in the streets to protest systemic racism and police brutality, increasing the risk of widespread transmission. Then a derecho hit Eastern Iowa causing serious damage and widespread power outages.
But by that time, Stephany was no stranger to chaos. With a large family, her teaching garden, and business of her own to run, Stephany responds to these challenges with familiarity and a matter-of-fact kind of humor. “There is literally always something going on,” she laughs.
The Iowa City chapter had already been providing medic training for area activist groups when the local BLM protestors called for medic support. “It’s hard to enforce precautions among protestors even though the organizers try,” Stephany shares. “One of my medics tested positive recently. It definitely adds a layer of difficulty to what we’re trying to do.”
In a place where the lines are more blurred and the dilemma of choice many young people are facing across the US right now, the choice is between stand up to injustice and risk exposure or stay inside.
Medics also risk arrest by police officers who in recent times have been less discriminating with their targets. “We’re not sure what’s gonna happen because police are going to be authorized to enforce arresting organizers that aren’t distancing.”
The medics coordinate regularly with marshals of the Iowa Freedom Riders - the group organizing protests in Iowa City with a goal of making sure those marching in the streets have support. The medic group uses a buddy system and medics are trained in first-aid and CPR to help people dealing with sprains, tear-gas, and heat exhaustion.
The Iowa City chapter of HWB does more still. At the start of the pandemic they came together to make an empty house available as a quarantine location for frontline workers who didn’t want to risk their families being exposed to the virus.
"The mutual aid collective and food projects sprung up as needs arose,” says Stephany.
Members have also kept their gardens going, contributing their herbs to herbal first aid kits and the chapter’s apothecary project. Others have been saving seeds as part Iowa City HWB's seed bank project while introducing new plants to their gardens.
The chapter still makes herbal learning available by hosting herbal teach-ins over Zoom and nearly half participate in the local Mutual Aid Collective they organized. As the season changes and we get prepared for flu season, the chapter will have their herbal preparations ready to go.
Stephany's great grandmother was a midwife who used herbal preparations to take care of her community and Stephany followed that tradition before she went to Goddard College where she studied clinical herbalism. She still thinks of herself that way, despite her degree.
“I felt a little undereducated when we moved to Iowa City and just wanted the letters behind my name,” she chuckles. A researcher, her name can be found listed as a resource in the course work of many herb schools throughout the country.
HWB Writer: Shari Shepard
Shari Shepard has had a love for wild things since her first summer spent in her grandmother's garden in Alabama. She is a writer, wanderer, teacher, ritualist, and musician. She comes from the sea spray and redwoods of the Ohlone lands, now widely known as the San Francisco Bay Area by way of the Chattahoochee River Valley once stewarded by the Muscogee. Her herbal learning is influenced by the Wise Womxn tradition, western herbalism, the root workers of the southeastern United States, and West African traditional medicine. She credits the plant world for opening up a doorway to deeper understanding about her ancestral lineage and for helping her step on the hard yet rewarding path of healing the traumatic loss of cultural identity caused by the colonization and captivity of her ancestors.
Her favorite medicine food is ginger, her favorite tea is Tulsi, and her favorite tree is the Sweet Gum.
The HWB quarterly newsletter is where we share more about our work, chapters, clinics, members, projects, and activities around the globe. It is also how we update members and Coordinators on what others do. So many people are doing amazing work in their communities - we love to share. And, while we each focus on the needs of our communities, we do not live in a bubble, and by sharing our stories, being aware of others, and communicating, we are all stronger as a part of our global network that unites under a vision, mission, and shares a belief in health justice for all. By sharing support, knowledge, experience, and connecting as allies, we all have a greater awareness of our place on this planet, and see all that we have in common as herbalists around the world.
Together, we are stronger.
HWB Newsletter Editor
About Miriah: Adventure seeker, snowboarder, mountain climber, river rat, yogi, surfer wannabe, outdoor enthusiast. Writer, artist, activist, green medicine cratswoman, wondering explorer.
I became a member and volunteer of Herbalists Without Borders in 2012 as the Healing Arts Project Coordinator, while living in Denver, Colorado. In 2014, I began constructing the quarterly newsletters and have served as the editor since and love it. The early newsletters were constructed while I lived remotely from Northern California; off-the-grid, on the move, and usually without internet access! I currently reside in Telluride, Colorado.
I’m striving to connect more with other Herbalists Without Borders globally on my travels and be an advocate writer on behalf of our non-profit, and freelance writer for other common causes. I truly support the humanitarian work of Herbalists Without Borders. I believe in humanity, and the moon and the stars. I’m passionate about protecting the Earth’s medicine and the rights to have access to it.
We are excited to share a series of monographs on the HWB blog. Each monograph is one double-sided page that can be saved or printed as a PDF. They were designed to be a quick reference, so not every action, dosing strategy, etc. could be covered. The back-side of each monograph lists references that were used and includes sources from respected herbal texts and websites, as well as peer-reviewed journal articles.
More Printable Resources for Herbalists
These monograph references were designed by HWB’s Handouts Coordinator, Janelle Farkas. Janelle is also Chapter Coordinator for HWB NEPA. Becoming a member of Herbalists Without Borders is a great way to connect with or start an Herbalists Without Borders chapter of your own!
Our chapter members support health justice and community resiliency with herbalism through a variety of unique projects and activities. HWB members also receive access to over 900 printables and eGuides on a wide range of herbalism and community wellness topics. Learn more about member benefits and join today! We look forward to growing together.
Hi, all! Starting with the fun stuff in introductions is, well, more fun! You'll find me outdoors whenever possible - biking, hiking, camping, music festivals…the list goes on. I also enjoy yoga, cooking, cuddling my cats, and learning. Managing the number of herbal courses and webinars I take at one time is an exercise in discipline! My road to herbs started, as it does for many people, during a time of personal struggle. I tried to address it at a physical level through yoga, which led me to acupuncture, and then herbs. Somewhere along the way I found the courage to face the fact that the root cause was emotional; though yoga/acupuncture/herbs could help, I would have to do the work to move forward. I came away from the experience stronger, happier, and with a deep appreciation for plants. The rest is history.
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