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Eat Local Week: foraging Florida with Green Deane

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Photo courtesy of KaliRay Skinner
Deane guiding the group of beginner and experienced foragers at Emerson Point Preserve.

Eat Local Week’s 2019 theme of “Exploring Food Waste” celebrates Manatee and Sarasota County businesses, nonprofits and individuals by dishing out an array of workshops, tours and plant walks from Oct. 17 through Nov. 2. 

Beginners and experienced foragers interested in “eating their environment” arrived at the Emerson Point Preserve, a 365 acre preserve west of Palmetto on Wed., Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. Many came equipped with binoculars, notebooks and the kind of hiking pants that zip into shorts. Green Deane of Eat The Weeds led the foraging nature walk. The eccentric and jolly fellow has an online encyclopedia full of knowledge about plants and foraging. Deane is a leading authority on foraging and has over four million views on his YouTube channel, where he breaks it down to simple science. 

Deane took the foragers on a walk through the preserve. With quick-fire wit, he grabbed protruding strands of grass or squatted down to the earth to point to specific “weeds,” recounting the history, medicinal properties and folklore stories of the plant. 

“These grow very, very fast and they are three weeks early, they’ve been fruiting this week, which gives us a couple of more weeks,” Deane explained, pointing to a honey-colored floret of mushrooms known as Amillaria tabescens growing on the walking path. “They grow exclusively on wood, so that means there has to be a root or stump here.”

Some New College students and alumni who study plant medicine attended the foraging walk. 

“My favorite quote was about the ringless honey mushroom and how you can learn to identify [mushrooms] through the acronym FAD (fixed, attached and descending),” thesis-student Salua Rivera said. “That changed my perspective on foraging for mushrooms and gives me the courage to go out there and learn to find them.”

Rivera’s Area of Concentration (AOC) is in Environmental Studies and she is one of the Composting Teaching Assistants (TA). 

“My relationship to foraging is increasing the more in tune I become with my environment by observing and being present,” Rivera said. “I look up and down and sideways whenever I’m outside and I always find something I know and something edible.”

Transition Sarasota, the non-profit organization that put together Eat Local Week, is a part of a larger Transition Movement that began in Totnes, England in 2005. The worldwide movement advocates for community-based solutions to global problems. Darryl McCullough, Treasurer of Transition Sarasota worked together with Aedan Stockdale, Education Division Manager of Parks and Natural Resources in Manatee County to oversee the foraging event. 

“Our mission is to create food and economic security by supporting local sustainable sources,” McCullough said. “We have two main events. One is Eat Local Week, which is in its ninth year, and it’s a collection of events that showcase all different aspects of local food in Sarasota and Manatee counties.”

Transition Sarasota is almost entirely volunteer based and have had New College interns in the past. 

“We also organize charity harvesting, where there’s unused produce that would otherwise go to waste,” McCullough said. “For many years we worked with Jessica’s Organic Farm. If they had leftover produce in their field that they didn’t need, we would organize volunteers to harvest it and send it to the food bank. Over eight years, we sent about 300,000 pounds of produce to food banks.”

Serendipitously, Stockdale is a part of the New College cohort of 2005. Along with Sara Denison (‘10), Education and Volunteer Specialist, both alumni assisted in the facilitation of the foraging event. After studying Environmental Studies at New College, Denison joined the Peace Corps in Jamaica and afterwards got a job with her fellow alum at Manatee County.

For more information on Eat Local Week or to get involved with Transition Sarasota movement, visit TransitionSRQ.org. The week will end with Mote Aquaculture Research Park Tour and Composting and Community by Sunshine Community Compost on Oct. 30, a Tour and Volunteer at All Faiths Food Bank on Nov. 1 and the Annual Farm-to-Table Fundraiser for Operation Eco Vets on Nov. 2.

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