Healing with the Elements – Weekend Retreats with Betzy Bancroft & Emily Ruff


Join herbalists Betzy Bancroft and Emily Ruff for a weekend retreat to embark on a soulful, sensory exploration of the elements of nature. Each three-day weekend is focused on one element – earth, air, fire and water. Infuse yourself in the tranquility of nature and deepen your relationship to the healing power of the earth in this three-day Mountain retreat. Each weekend focuses on one of the four elements – air, fire, earth and water – to awaken our senses to the reflection of these healing forces in the land around us.

Nestled within the embrace of the forest, immerse yourself in a sanctuary of nourishment, learning, and restoration, where each day is carefully crafted to inspire the mind and rejuvenate the spirit. Engage in guided activities rooted in the wisdom of the elements, with guided plant walks, seasonally inspired medicine making, nourishing meals crafted from local ingredients, and a myriad of activities on the land offering inspiration and relaxation. Each month explores a different element in-depth:

  • June 7-9 – Air (themes of spring and rejuvenation)
  • July 12-14 – Fire (themes of summer and balance)
  • August 9-11 – Earth (themes of autumn and nourishment)
  • September 13-15 – Water (themes of winter and wellness)

Each weekend’s schedule follows the rhythm of the forest with time for learning, expanding, and relaxing.

Nourish your body and soul: Throughout the weekend, indulge in nourishing, locally sourced meals prepared with love by our talented chefs.

Restore in our serene sanctuary: Camping under the canopy of towering trees, you’ll find respite and rejuvenation in the tranquil embrace of nature. Rustic cabin lodging is also available.

Join Us in Reconnecting with the Elements: Whether you seek solace in the serenity of the forest or crave deeper connection with the healing potential of the elements, our weekend series offers a sacred space to rediscover your connection to nature and nourish your mind, body, and spirit.

Book Your Retreat Today: Spaces are limited for this intimate and immersive experience. Reserve your spot now and embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation in the heart of the wilderness. Register 30 days in advance of any weekend for a $50 early bird discount; register for the full four-part series and save $250. Scholarships are available. Primitive camping is included in your tuition. Platform camping and private cabins (with shared restroom and showers) are available for rental on a first-come, first serve basis. Several local inns are offering student rates for those wishing for private off-site lodging.

Weekend Schedule:

Weekend begins informally on Friday evening with an introduction, and ends Sunday after lunch. Tuition includes vegetarian meals, served Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.


  • 3-6 pm Check-in
  • 6 pm Dinner
  • 7:30 pm Orientation


  • 8 am Breakfast
  • 10 am Garden walk
  • 12-2 Lunch
  • 2-6 Seasonal Workshop and Preparation
  • 6-7:30 Dinner
  • 7:30 Sauna


  • 8 am Breakfast
  • 9 am Forest walk
  • 12 pm Lunch followed by closing activity




Betzy Bancroft, RH(AHG) is a teacher, clinical herbalist, gardener, craftsperson and environmentalist who’s had a deep appreciation for the magic of plants since childhood. As VCIH co-director and core faculty, Betzy provides the earth element to the organization’s staff. Plants are truly her friends, and she feels ever inspired by the natural world—all its varied beings and the amazing interconnections and beauty that make up the great web of life.

In 1987 she began formal study at Herbal Therapeutics School of Botanical Medicine (now David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies) and went on to teach herbal pharmacy, field botany and other subjects as an assistant instructor at the school. Lucky to be in the only class of David’s that continued for 3 years, Betzy went on to complete two graduate courses in clinical herbalism with him, as well.Still an avid student, she has taught classes in herbal medicine, wild edible plants and the medicinal uses of food throughout the Northeast for over two decades, including major conferences such as Northeast Organic Farming Association, Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Conference, the American Herbalists Guild Symposia and the New England Women’s Herbal Conference. Betzy was a part time instructor at the Tracker School for 7 years, specializing in edible wild plants and the physical languages of plants. Teaching there enabled her to take many classes in primitive skills, and she happily maintains connection to that community by teaching at the ROOTS School Rendezvous. Betzy currently serves on the United Plant Savers’ Advisory Board. Her experience also includes over a decade in the herbal product industry as staff herbalist and general manager for Herbalist & Alchemist, Inc., a manufacturer of quality herbal extracts and other herbal products. She’s also taken weekend or multi-weekend courses with a number of respected herbalists, including Amanda McQuade-Crawford and the late William LeSassier, two teachers who have particularly inspired her. Practicing in the Western energetic tradition of herbal medicine, Betzy has been influenced by the Eclectic and other botanic physicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries in this country, and deeper back to the traditions of Europe. Her focus is on the common threads between all ancient medical systems, which ultimately lead to Nature itself–the four basic elements and the qualities intrinsic to them. Helping students and clients recognize the Nature of herbs, peoples’ constitutions and imbalances is a key part of her approach. Betzy loves to introduce others to her green friends, to share the herbal wisdom she feels very blessed to have learned. Her goal is to help students and clients understand the plants’ “personalities” and relate to them as fellow living beings and guides to better health.

Emily Ruff is director of Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary and founder of the Florida School of Holistic Living and Florida Herbal Conference. She is a community herbalist who has practiced the art and science of plant healing for fifteen years, and has integrated herbs into hospice settings for over a decade. Her studies have taken her around three continents where she has studied under healers of many traditions, including an apprenticeship under renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. She is a death doula, a Hospice volunteer, and has worked in ceremony and ritual at end-of-life with family, friends, and community.

Her background in gardening and botany came in childhood while wandering the wilderness and digging in the sandy soils of Florida with her grandfather, a tobacco farmer turned urban gardener, and her father, a botany and astronomy professor. Emily’s classes have been described as “heart-filled,” “enriching,” and “empowering,” creating a bridge between the teachings of our ancestors and the technologies of our modern world.

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