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Have you ever heard of Auraca Herbarists?

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

Hello! I thought it would be a great idea to introduce you to some of my other activities that I am involved in here in NY State. More specifically, my blog is named CNY Living Local, and even though Cayuga County and Cornell Botanic Gardens are not usually included in the CNY area, I wanted to include these locations in my blog. Since I now spend a good amount of time in Ithaca and our decision to move to NY State and start our own business, really came about by spending time there and learning about the people, the culture and local businesses that focus on local and sustainable products.

During our first summer vending here in NY at the Homer Farmers' Market, I was invited to attend a monthly meeting of Auraca Herbarists. At that time the meeting place for Auraca Herbarists was known as Cornell Plantations. The name has been to changed to Cornell Botanic Gardens. This interesting group developed as a result of an informal meeting in 1963 of a small group of women from Aurora and Ithaca interested in supporting and becoming stewards of the Robison Herb Garden that is part of the Cornell Botanic Gardens. This group has evolved into an active organization that is devoted to the study of herbs including the expansive historical, cultural, and medicinal aspects of herbs throughout the centuries. Interests also include the propagation and cultivation of herbs and other plants in personal, private, and community gardens. I joined right away!

The study of plants and herbs as related to medicinal practices has been in existence well before written language was used to document human activity. Tradition and folklore verbally passed on customs and beliefs of people to subsequent generations. The clay tablets of the Sumerians from 5000 years ago were the first known written documentation of the use of herbs and plants as medicine ( ).Herbs and plants were used to treat many or all types of disease or human condition and many times women were involved in preparations and treatments. This was well before the use of modern medicine. Actually the prescriptions and medicines that we use today were based on the medicinal properties that were derived from plants. Early people who documented the use of medicinal plants were first known as herbarists, this is an Old English, almost archaic term for the more commonly known term herbalist. As an Auraca Herbarist, I believe that the founders wanted to make a statement that highlighted the importance of the historical context of the study of herbs, how women were involved from the start, and that herbalism has been around as long as people themselves.

In 1980, the Auraca Herbarists again emphasized the importance of holding herbal history and women in high esteem when they commissioned a gift to the Robison Herb Garden. The gift was a bronze casting of an original terra cotta statue that was created by Elfriede Abbe (1919-2012). Abbe was a Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate from Cornell College of Architecture in 1940. The statue is entitled "Yarb Woman". Yarb is an Old English word that means herb. The installation of the Yarb Woman statue in the Robison Herb Garden was to honor the past, present, and future contribution by woman to herbalism studies and practices ( ).

The Yarb Woman at Cornell Botanic Gardens

Each monthly lunch time meeting of Auraca Herbarists, consists of a business meeting, an educational program, and a presentation on an Herb of the Month. We meet the second Tuesday of every month at 11:45 at the Nevin Welcome Center, the state of the art, awarding winning building built specifically to welcome visitors to the Cornell Botanic Gardens. If you would like more information, please comment on this blog post or email me at

Take care.


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