Today’s show is a recap of my experiences at the 2014 Native Plants in the Landscape Conference held at Millersville University.
Before we get started, I’d also like to thank everyone involved with organizing and presenting this conference for welcoming me, answering my questions as they arose, and making my time there so successful. I couldn’t have done this without their support. As a small mostly volunteer organization they pulled off a great event.
Also, I’m able to attend and report on events like this, and others like it, because of your support as a listener. If you’d like more episodes like this in the future, please make a one-time or ongoing contribution to the show. You can find out how to do that by going to thepermaculturepodcast.com/support.
Native Plants in the Landscape Conference @ Millersville
Though the conference normally spans three days, I was only able to attend the sessions on Friday, June 6th, but oh what a day it was. The sessions were divided into a series of concurrent, as well as all attendee, sessions. I went bounced around from as many as I could to get information on what was happening to share with.
Here are my thoughts on each piece I was able to get to, and how you can find more information on each of the presenters detailed below.
Dick Brown – Planting Pollinator MeadowsI started my day with Dick Brown and his lecture on Planting Pollinator Meadows. I enjoyed his presentation because it reflected my own work of creating an intentional meadow where before there was only lawn. Mr. Brown is a retired 8th grade science teacher who then went about working to prepare and create meadows in central Pennsylvania.
His experience as an educator came through because he had a very well prepared talk, and an excellent handout to accompany it that clearly articulate what he does, his goals, and how he goes about it. I also smiled as he referred the presentation from the previous day on foraging, which had been offered by past guests of the show Jon Darby and Ben Weiss. Not only was Dick there as a speaker, but also as a participant to learn more and apply it to his own passion.
Mr. Brown also shared that he uses fire for management of his meadows, which peaked the interest of my inner 12-year old. I remember my time spent by a camp fire and how beautiful it was, and here is a way to use it as a tool to create even more beauty and to heal the landscape.
He runs the blog Native Plant Action Network, at nativeplantactionnetwork.blogspot.com.
Dr. Elizabeth Farnsworth – Go Botany! A 21st-Century Tool for Learning About Plants
Next up in my tour was Dr. Elizabeth Farnsworth who was talking about a tool she and others created called “Go Botany” that can help you to identify and learn about 3,500 different plants, created by scientists for everyone to use. This is a tool for children and adults, and if you have questions and reach out to the organization, you’ll be reaching a live human being who does this work, not an automated response.
This is a great tool if you live in or near the Northeastern United States, from Pennsylvania through Maine and surrounding areas, and for anyone interested in plants, foraging, and wild foods elsewhere in the world.
I found Dr. Farnsworth to be incredibly dynamic, passionate, and engaged in this material, and continually humorous in her presentation. Though I didn’t make it to her later talk about the role of citizen scientists, I’m looking to speak with her about both that topic and the Go Botany tool and how we, as permaculture practitioners and enthusiasts, can add to the body of scientific knowledge.
You can find out more about Go Botany! at gobotany.newenglandwild.org.
Eric Toensmeier – Permaculture with Native Plants: Ecological Edible LandscapingI’ll admit that I did not get to spend as much time listening to Eric’s presentation as I would have liked, because I wanted to cover as much of the event as I was able to, but I will say this: he’s good. He’s really good at what he does and is even more engaging in person. The first few minutes of his presentation was getting to know the audience, who was familiar with what would follow, and then setting up where he would lead the audience over the next hour.
He and I did get a chance to sit and talk before his presentation and touch on a lot of little questions and pieces of what’s happening in the wider permaculture world, including how incredible the IPC in Cuba was. I would like to have him back on the show in the future to share his thoughts from the IPC and how we can use what he learned there to expand what we’re doing as practitioners, as well as to have a conversation about permaculture and native plants.
Eric’s website is perennialsolutions.org.
S. Edgar David – Nature, Schools, and Educational Landscapes
The thing about an event like this, when there is so much going on, is that you can’t attend everything, and I do wish I’d been able to have a team with me to cover the native plant conference, as the next two presenters had some great information that I only caught a part of.
The first of those was Mr. Edgar David a Landscape Architect who works on projects integrating sustainability and nature into schools and other educational environments. He shared a number of projects through pictures and explanation about how he’s able to accomplish this, get the buy in from others, as well as how he includes a good mix of elements in his design for students to learn about the natural world.
You can see some of what Mr. David spoke about at his site, seddesignstudio.com.
Derek Stoner – Native Plants for Nesting Birds: Connecting Flora and Fauna
The second of those was Derek Stoner, the Conservation Project Coordinator for the Delaware Nature Society. His lecture was on Native Plants for Nesting Birds, and he walked the audience through 10 difference species of plants to include in their landscape, chosen for individuals living along the Piedmont plateau which stretches up from Alabama through Georgia along the eastern United States, through Pennsylvania and into New Jersey. Mr. Stoner’s focused discussion allowed him to show illustrative images that walked us through the details of how the chosen plant species provided benefits such as food, building material, or nesting locations for birds.
I was at this presentation long enough to see four of his ten species. They were:
- Highbush Blueberry
- Black Willow
Find out more about Mr. Stoner and his work at Delawarenaturesociety.org.
Tyler Case – More than a Stool for your Garden Gnome: How Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms can add New Dimensions to Your Garden
Because I’m still on a mushroom kick my last presentation that I was able to cover was with Tyler Case, and I wound up staying for the entirety of. Tyler is a listener to the show who has begun a commercial mushroom operation in Philadelphia, PA, and he was the reason I was reminded about the conference coming up.Tyler gave a nice overview of mushrooms, the types, how they’re grown, where to find them, good edible species, and how to use them in the landscape. He framed this conversation around four ways that mushrooms can help us.
- Beauty. Mushrooms come in a variety of shapes and colors that can add beauty to the landscape. Some are even bio-luminescent.
- Bounty. Mushrooms are food we can eat, converting woody material and other refuse into something edible.
- Bio-degrade. Mushrooms can turn waste into food, but also sharing some of the research of how mushrooms can handle fossil fuels and other soil contaminants.
- Bank soil. Mushrooms help to create the building blocks of soil by decomposing material.
What he shared with the audience was impressive and reflected a lot of the current research about fungi, as I understand it from my own readings, as well as including his personal experience.
I’ve asked many of these individuals, and several others I met at the conference, to be guests on the show. I’ll let you know as we get those interviews setup and recorded.
If you’d like to see the presentations, workshops, and lectures I wasn’t able to cover this time around, check out the full conference brochure (links directly to a PDF). With where the direction of the podcast is headed, which I’ll share with you in an upcoming Permabyte, I’m planning to be in a place where I can attend this event next year, and others like it, with a team of individuals to cover it more fully.
Finally, whether you are a plant nerd, a permaculture professional, or someone just starting out, events like the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference are a great way to get introduced to ideas and connect with individuals who are making a difference in the world.
I’ll leave you with this last picture which came from dinner that followed the conference at a local restaurant. By my rough count there were around 40 people from the conference who came, sat, and ate together in order to carry on the conversation. I was humbled and inspired to be around so many people who care and are doing what they can to support animal habitat, to grow native plants, to educate and integrate children with the natural world, and so much more.
Get in touch with the organizers of local events that interest to you, and help to create a better world by getting involved when you can to take care of the earth, your self, and each other.
If you have a local event I should know about, or would like to share you own field coverage of something, please get in touch.
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