Wisconsin Badger Camp to host Midwest Wild Harvest Festival

By Caitlin Bittner

Calling all people who love the outdoors, the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival is once again coming to the Prairie du Chien area. On Sept. 13-15, foragers from all over the United States will be flocking to Wisconsin Badger Camp outside of Prairie du Chien.

“It’s an event for education and recreation surrounding wild edible plants,” said event coordinator, Melissa Price.

The festival, while only celebrating its second year in our area, is in its fifth year overall. “It was started by Sam Thayer in Eau Claire,” said Price, who noted that the move helped the event find a more central location with good plant variety.

With some participants at this year’s event coming from as far away as Georgia and Pennsylvania, one might wonder, what is drawing the crowd?

“There are only three other similar events like this in the U.S. One is in Minnesota in June, one is in North Carolina in April and the other is in September in West Virginia,” explained Price. “Those events are where [this event] got ideas; we picked what we thought were the best parts and put them together.”

The festival will feature five to six adult instructors and two instructors for children, as well as a day care worker to  look after small children. “We wanted the focus to be on family fun and make it enjoyable for all, having someone to watch kids who are maybe too young to participate can only help,” commented Price.

Registration for the event will begin at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, with the event wrapping up by noon on Sunday, Sept. 15.

The first session will begin at 3 p.m. and is not for beginners. Sam Thayer, the event’s creator, will be teaching a tree and shrub identification class.

At 6:30 p.m., will be the tastiest part of the event—the Wild Foods Potluck Dinner and Cooking Contest. Anyone in attendance may bring their dish to be tested by three judges. The winner will be chosen based one the number of wild ingredients, the taste and the look. A welcome to the event is scheduled to take place at 8 p.m., followed by Keynote Speaker, Ellen Zachos.

A former Broadway performer, Zachos is now the proprietor of Acme Plant Stuff in New York City, a business that specializes in garden design, installation and maintenance. She is an instructor at the New York Botanical garden and the author of five book including “Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat.” In addition, Zachos hosts a weekly radio show on National Public Radio (NPR) and blog at www.downanddirtygardening.com.
“We really try to bring in the best instructors from about the country,” added Price, who is excited to see what each of the respective plant expert will bring to this year’s event.

While Zachos will present on Friday, the other instructors will be taking the helm on Saturday at 9 a.m. After a 7 a.m. breakfast, workshops for  kids, teens and adults will start and continue throughout the day.

Adult instructors and their classes include: Ellen Zachos—Cooking with wild edibles; Mike Krebill—Foraging 101; Roger Reynolds—Edible Landscapes; George Hedgepeth—Wild edibles and the Anishnabe people; Linda Conroy—Herbal first aid kit; and Sam Thayer—Tree and shrub identification.

Children’s instructors and their classes include: Amy Schmidt—Wild edible scavenger hunt and wild edible display board, making a foraging basket, making a foraging journal and plant walk; Jeny Meyer—Leaf ID (shape/color/margin/rubbings), Geo Caching (using GPS and dichotomous keys) and dandelion cakes; and Jessica Spinner—will be in charge of day care for the weekend.

Because of the event’s location, event participants are invited to camp or stay in the dorms. “The meals and stay are included in the registration fee,” noted Price.

Attendance for the event usually ranges between 100 to 120 participants, and, with the maximum capacity of the event being 130, organizers know they’re doing pretty well. “We’ve heard nothing but good things; people really enjoy the event,” Price said.

All proceeds from this year’s Midwest Wild Harvest Festival go towards the funding of this year’s event, with any leftover funds rolling forward into next year. If you’d like to register or find out more information about the event, please visit www.wildharvestfestival.org.

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