The nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) announces that herbalist and educator Sara Katz has been selected as the second-ever recipient of its Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award. The award is granted to persons in the herbal medicine community who have played a significant role in creating a sense of community among herbalists, researchers, members of the herb and natural products communities, and related groups who work in the area of medicinal plants. It was created in 2013 and is named after ABC’s founder and executive director, Mark Blumenthal.
Among her many noteworthy accomplishments, Katz is co-founder of the herbal products company Herb Pharm, a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild and board president of United Plant Savers (UpS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to conservation and sustainable production of indigenous American medicinal plants. She has served on numerous local and national boards—including that of the American Herbal Products Association—and she has organized and co-organized multiple herbal conferences throughout the United States, notably five UpS conferences at Herb Pharm between 2000 and 2012, with proceeds benefiting the conservation nonprofit.
Along with strong support from others in the herbal community, Katz received a nomination for the honor from the recipient of the inaugural Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award, celebrated herbalist, author and UpS founder Rosemary Gladstar. “[Sara] is a driving force in the herbal community and is involved in so many herbal ventures. In fact, there's very little Sara's not involved in, or [hasn’t] supported in one way or another,” said Gladstar. “The thing is, she does it quietly, often behind the scenes … but she's always speaking out, doing, helping, being involved in the greater circle.”
“I am so humbled, floored, and surprised. To be in the same teacup as Mark and Rosemary—I cannot imagine a more meaningful award. I couldn’t be happier and I am over-the-moon honored,” said Katz. “The herbal community is international, ranging from scientists to herbalists to farmers,” she observed. “There is a spirit and a spark and an understanding that unites all of us, and that’s a lot of people.”
Katz grew up in south Florida without much exposure to herbs or the natural-living culture. “In my early 20s, I chose to break away, and I went about as far as I could—to Portland, Oregon,” recalled Katz. In search of a career and drawn to natural healing, Katz enrolled in Western States Chiropractic College (now the University of Western States). Though bodywork ultimately was not Katz’s calling, her chiropractic training did connect her with a group of like-minded individuals endeavoring to establish an herbal medicine-centered naturopathic college. The start-up funding for what became the Pacific College of Natural Medicine was raised through conferences Katz co-organized.
Shortly thereafter, Katz and herbalist Ed Smith chose to diverge from that path, forging a trail that led to their 1979 co-founding of Herb Pharm—today an award-winning herbal extract manufacturing business and certified-organic farm. “We packed up our bags, found a rental, and moved to Williams, Oregon, where we started making extracts in our kitchen. Ed traveled the country teaching herb classes, and people were fascinated by our extracts, so we joined forces and started doing everything about herbs,” said Katz. She added: “It was the most modest home business that you can imagine, the way it started.”
Katz and Smith’s “Pharm Farm” in southern Oregon grew simultaneously with their Herb Pharm Herbaculture Intern Program, which currently offers three 10-week sessions per year. During that time, the interns live on site, spending weekdays learning medicinal plant cultivation and harvest, and evenings and weekends in classes devoted to topics ranging from plant identification to therapeutic herbalism. Over the past 35 years, the program has provided training to thousands—many of whom have gone on to pursue careers in natural medicine. It stands among Katz’s proudest and most passionate efforts, along with her “completely gratifying” work to conserve and protect indigenous medicinal plants with UpS.
“What motivates me is working toward purposeful goals with a dedicated, passionate, intelligent group of people,” said Katz. “The role I find myself in now is as a mentor in the various nonprofit organizations that I’m involved with. In many cases, the way is being led by remarkable young women, and I am absolutely thrilled to be able to help them navigate the world of business and organizations with all I’ve learned through the years.
“Herbs lead the way,” she continued. “For me, it’s a spiritual path; it’s what connects me to the unknown and the world of nature, and I think it’s that way for many of us. When you get that spark of the medicine plants, it’s forever.”
“Sara is a truly amazing person, perhaps a proverbial ‘force of nature,’” noted Blumenthal. “I remember, back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, her working in her home late at night, packing orders for the line of ‘home-made’ herbal extracts that she and Ed made, sending them to herbalists and alternative healthcare practitioners all over the United States. She was like three people in one — her energy and enthusiasm seemed boundless. And, she’s taken that high level of energetic commitment beyond the business to educational activities and organizations across the United States, particularly with her dedicated volunteer work as president of United Plant Savers.”
The ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award will be presented to Katz at the 9th Annual American Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony on March 6 in Anaheim, California. The ABC event occurs during the NEXT Innovation Summit (formerly Nutracon) nutrition, natural products, and dietary supplements conference and Natural Products Expo West.