A Life-place is more than a place where people eat, sleep, and work. From a permaculture and bioregional perspective it is a place that people truly inhabit by getting to really know it and take care of it. My wife and I have recently returned to Lancaster, PA to put down our roots and to re-inhabit this beautiful Life-place where we have spent a great deal of our lives. I came back here to work as a permaculturist, doing design work and education, as a service for those who live in the region. One of the projects that we at Susquehanna Permaculture are working on is our Forager’s Co-op. Amongst our aims is to introduce people to the wild foods and medicines that grow abundantly in this area of Southeastern PA. If we can get people to eat these foods and use these medicines then we believe that it will serve multiple purposes (stack functions if you will). To do so we have begun foraging abundantly available wild foods and have set ourselves up as vendors at a new farmer’s market. Yesterday was the first day of the market and the turn out was fantastic.
Many people in the area and elsewhere are new to the idea of eating plants that come from a wild place instead of a grocery store. Some folks are afraid that anything that comes from the woods or a field must be poisonous, dangerous, or perhaps even gross. Of course this is far from true. Many of the wild edibles that proliferate in our woods and old fields are much more nutrient dense than even the most nutritious of vegetables, yet most people have yet to be informed of that fact. At our market stand we spent a lot of time interacting with market goers in conversation about just how nutrient dense the foods we had displayed are and gave tips on their preparation. Many though interested only listened rather than bought anything and that’s OK. They at least learned a little something new. Perhaps they will now think deeply about what is around them and want to take better care of it in the future. The more adventurous customers bought a great deal of what we had to offer. I bet we will have some repeat customers from that bunch as well.
While foraging we ethically harvest, make small interventions within the landscape such as pulling out overly rampant species and propagate important species that once grew in the area. In so doing, we are helping ourselves and others to re-inhabit this Life-place in the lower Susquehanna Valley. Each week at market, people will hear us speak lovingly about the “weeds” that grow along woodland edges, in the deeper woods, or open fields that are useful for food or medicine. Those who consider themselves “foodies” will learn to seek out wild edibles either from us or perhaps on their own. Others will remain curious to know what foraged items those bearded guys are selling this week. As the growing season goes on, most people who stop at our stand will also be introduced to permaculture and its ethical underpinnings. We hope that they incorporate them into their lives. For myself and my permaculture business partners it goes way beyond right livelihood. We are really seeking to serve our entire bioregion and make it a more sustainable, ecologically balanced place. We would love to make ourselves pretty much obsolete as “professionals” by propagating permaculture in the region so thoroughly that it becomes the norm. It goes beyond selling some wild food, installing gardens, or teaching PDCs. We are educators, naturalists, conservationist, but most of all students of our bioregion seeking to increase the carrying capacity of the lands and waters around us. That we get to spend a lot of time in the woods is one of the best “fringe” benefits I could possibly ask for!