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 and Santa Barbara counties of 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 Walks” 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 Michael Moore; Michael Tierra; Amanda McQuade Crawford; my uncle, the late Sidney Yudin; Dr. Fred Siciliano; Chumash educator Julie Tumamait; and Dr. Jim 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 recently retired from teaching Science and Special Education at Santa Paula High School.
In addition to the events I host or lead in the field, I also have an indoor slideshow presentation about the notable native plants of Southern California that I can bring to your organization. It’s called “Meet Your Local Plant Community” and, like the Herb Walks, it focuses on plants of ethnobotanical importance, i.e., those that have a history of human usage. I can tailor it to focus on different aspects of native plants such as drought tolerant natives for gardening.
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 CDBaby.com.