Teaching Sustainability | News, Sports, Jobs

WARREN – Just minutes into foraging, they found aster, black-eyed Susan seeds and hosta in the vacant lots of Mercer Avenue.

The aster with its small flowers was mostly ornamental — good for crafts — but the hosta was very edible, Sophia Buggs told Janet Shaffer of Niles and Cheryl Bollinger of Mineral Ridge.

Buggs, who runs a small urban farm on Carroll Street in the south side of Youngstown, sees herself as more of a teacher and steward of the land than a traditional farmer. However, she grows food at Lady Buggs Pharm, which she sells mostly to individuals or to chefs at small local restaurants.

She recently led two free urban foraging classes in Warren, where she took participants through lots around town to find plants that were edible, medicinal or useful for crafts.

It was about teaching people how to be sustainable where they live, she said.

“Foraging gives people back their wholeness where they are,” she said.

Buggs said she wants people to make peace with finding food in their neighborhood, which is often stigmatized. Sometimes people feel like they need “permission” to be in their own backyard, which they don’t — you have a right to be there, Buggs said. And, you might find some edible plants to put on your table.

On Mercer Avenue lots, foraging class participants found black raspberries, black locusts, and northern spice bushes — all of which have parts that can be eaten.

When foraging, Buggs recommends bringing the proper tools: a basket, gloves, a paper bag to dry the plants, shears or a knife, and a hand trowel. She also suggests dressing for the activity in practical and comfortable clothes.

She said that when entering the land, pickers should always ask permission – both in the practical way of checking with neighbors and in the spiritual sense. Buggs views the earth as a sentient being and says she believes that to access its wholeness, a person must ask permission and give thanks when they take something from it, whether it’s a prayer, a song, or a gift like the water.

“You always feel better,” Buggs said, thanking the earth.

Buggs said she discourages people from foraging in “devil’s strip,” or the dirt between the sidewalk and the road, because it’s close to vehicle exhaust and road trash.

She recommends using cell phone apps that help identify plants. His favorite, PictureThis, not only lists properties of plants, but also recounts associated folklore or includes a poem.

Buggs said when it comes to sustainability, people in urban areas often feel like they can’t be sustainable, but it can be as simple as composting in your own backyard.

“You have a lot to give,” Buggs said. “You can bring it back to earth.”

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