A note from Herbstalk’s founder, Steph Zabel
It’s been quite a while since there have been any Herbstalk updates, and I very much apologize for that. As we approach the first weekend in June (which from 2012 to 2021 was always the Herbstalk weekend at the Armory) I wanted to share some thoughts on where we are in regards to hosting events. People have been reaching out to ask if Herbstalk is still in existence, and are wondering about what’s next. I really appreciate everyone who checks in about the events — I’m so glad that it’s something that people remember fondly. And I’m sorry that I haven’t been more communicative over the past year and a half with updates.
To be honest, as a private, introverted person I struggle with social media and how much to share on a personal level. I’ve always wanted the Herbstalk platform to be focused on all the wonderful and inspiring herbalists, teachers, crafters, partners and participants of the events, and not on the behind-the-scenes stuff. I didn’t think it was necessary to share about the private workings of Herbstalk, but now I realize that it might be helpful for those who want to understand why things have been put on pause for so long…
I think that it has sometimes appeared that Herbstalk is a larger organization than it actually is, and is/was managed by a team of people. And while that is certainly true during the actual events — there are so many amazing and generous friends, family, volunteers and community partners who have been essential to running the day — the bulk of the work throughout the nitty gritty planning process was done by me over all these years. I’ve always seen this as a weakness of Herbstalk — that its existence essentially hinged upon one person. I also feel that it’s a personal failure of mine to have not been able to figure out a way to make it a viable and sustainable organization that could exist if I couldn’t coordinate it. I wish I had found a way.
It was a labor of love to put on these events for the community, and such a tremendous joy to see how Herbstalk was received and the impact it had. For me this work was full of service and purpose and I was very happy and honored to do it. But since it was always a homespun and scrappy affair its unexpected popularity and growth — while very lovely and gratifying — was difficult at times. After a decade of running two to three events per year, including some experiments going virtual, I was feeling weary. Along with the pandemic, parenting a young child, keeping my own individual herbal business going, navigating personal struggles and sorrows, and the general intensity of the times we live in, I was burned out. At the beginning of 2022 I decided to take a break and regroup.
I thought that taking the year off would re-energize me and offer some sort of epiphany about how to go forward with Herbstalk in a more sustainable way. Part of me also hoped that someone would come forward to take the reins for running the events. But neither of these things happened, and now that it is June 2023 I am still not clear about what’s next. While I certainly don’t want to let anyone down or abandon the vibrant community that was formed around Herbstalk, I know that it was necessary for me to step back, take time to rest, and to work on my own personal healing.
So, all this is to say that Herbstalk is still existing in the ethers for now, as an idea and a memory, and hopefully one day as a new spark. I have not called it quits for good, but neither have I decided what’s next. One thing I do know with great certainty: whatever I create from my heart must be out of joy and enthusiasm rather than a sense of obligation. That’s how this gathering was born — from a feeling of exuberant inspiration and love — and that’s the feeling I always wanted every person to have when they walked through the door.
Because Herbstalk was always meant to be for the community, for the general public, for all people who love the natural world perhaps it’s now time for others to envision the next iteration of this gathering if it is to continue. I am very open to help and suggestions, particularly to any serious inquires from people who would want to take on the planning logistics and responsibilities going forward. It would need to be an individual or — even better — a group of people who can be committed to seeing Herbstalk through for another decade. Or, perhaps it’s a non-profit organization who wants to take Herbstalk under their wing. There are many possibilities that could happen… But at this point I know I can’t be the only one steering this beautiful but unwieldy ship. Please reach out by email if this might be you (please don’t message me via instagram or facebook since I don’t spend much time there, and serious inquiries and ideas only, please.)
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the community in other ways. And if you want to keep in touch with my other work and happenings you can do so through @steph_zabel and @livinglandcourse. I promise I’ll keep everyone updated if and when things change, and if there are plans about new Herbstalk events.
I truly miss the warmth and love and magic that was created when so many plant people gathered together in one place, and I hope that it will return again, in one form or another.