Hi! I’m Lanny Kaufer. I live in Ojai, CA with my wife Rondia. I’ve been leading Herb Walks — interpretive native plant walks and nature hikes — in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles Counties in Southern California since 1976. I call them “Herb Walks” rather than “native plant walks” because we focus on the plants defined as “herbs,” i.e., those that can be used for food and medicine. Along the trails we encounter many herbs that have multiple uses for survival, crafts, home remedies, gardening, ceremony, fiber-making and wildcrafting of all sorts. One of my first mentors, the late WilliamLeSassier, coined the term “Herb Walk” in the early 1970’s when he led them in Santa Barbara where I first met him and attended an Herb Walk. I borrowed the name once I started leading my own walks when William moved east. (Thanks, William. May you rest in peace.)
I’ve acquired much of my knowledge in field study and collaboration with well-known herbalists and ethnobotanists and have co-led workshops, walks, and expeditions with noted herbalists such as the late Chumash plant expert Juanita Centeno; the late herbalist/author Michael Moore; herbalist/author Michael Tierra; herbalist/author Amanda McQuade Crawford; my uncle, the late Sidney Yudin; Dr. Fred Siciliano; Chumash educator Julie Tumamait; renowned author and forager Christopher Nyerges; and Professor Emeritus James Adams of the USC School of Pharmacy. I appeared as a guest on Amanda McQuade Crawford’s VeriaTV series, “What A Relief!” See the video here. My mission now is to pass on this time-honored knowledge to the next generation of herbalists, ethnobotanists, and just regular folks who want to regain their ancestral connection to the plants.
As for my formal education background, I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1974 with a degree in Biology. While there, I did extensive independent studies in the field of naturopathic medicine (under the supervision of Dr. Henry Hilgard) and worked in the UCSC Arboretum. I’ve taught Science, Health and Natural History to middle school and high school students at Santa Paula High School, Happy Valley School, Ojai Valley School, Mountain View High School and Renaissance Continuation High School. I’ve also served as Outdoor Education Director for Happy Valley School and Education Director for The C.R.E.W. (Concerned Resource and Environmental Workers) and was a co-founder of the Sunbow Ecology Center. I am retired from teaching Science and Special Education at Santa Paula High School.
My newest ventures can be found at OjaiHerbal.org, the internet home for the Ojai Herbal Symposium and the Ojai Medical Cannabis Conference (MediCannaCon). In addition to the events I host or lead in the field, I also have indoor slideshow presentations about the notable native plants of Southern California that I can bring to your organization.They focus on plants of ethnobotanical importance, i.e., those that have a history of human usage. I can tailor one for you to focus on specific aspects of native plants such as drought tolerant natives for gardening.
In December, 2021, Falcon Guides published my book, Medicinal Herbs of California: A Field Guide to Common Healing Plants. You can order it and request a signed copy at checkout by visiting this link.
I’d love to tell you more about Herb Walks and find about your interests. So please sign up for my email list to receive my monthly e-newsletter or send me a note at this contact link. To see what the media have to say about me, please visit my page on Herb Walks and Lanny Kaufer in the News.
If you’ve read this far you may be interested to know about other aspects of my life and work that may seem, at first glance, to be unrelated to my native plant education projects. In 1965, I volunteered to work for Dr. Martin Luther King’s SCOPE Project in the South registering voters and helping to remove obstacles to voting. At my other website, CivilRightsVet.com, you can learn more about this history as well as the musical multimedia presentations that I currently bring to schools, temples, churches, libraries and other community venues.
In 2004, I recorded an album of original songs, The High Road, most of which reflect a worldview informed by my work with nature and social justice. It can be heard and downloaded at ReverbNation.com.