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A lesson in foraging...with the Lugoff Garden Club

Posted: March 27, 2014 4:56 p.m.
Updated: March 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

By HALEY ATKINSON

C-I (Camden, S.C.) Localife editor

hatkinson@chronicle-independent.com

 

Monday, the Lugoff Garden Club took an "Edible Plants Walk" with Matt Kip at the Cayce River Walk on the west banks of the Congaree River. During the walk, Kip identified and described different plants in the local forest that are edible and nutritional. He instructed members on how to select various plants to make a natural salad out of the burgeoning spring greens and then encouraged members to sample the all natural salad he’d created during the walk.

Kip explained that because of the convenience of supermarkets and restaurants, many people have forgotten the traditional knowledge of foraging. Growing up in Columbia, Kip played in a vast expanse of forest as a child. As he watched this land being bulldozed and transformed into suburban sprawl, he developed a concern for the natural world in opposition to the expanding consumer culture.

Kip said he came to a realization while working for a furniture manufacturer. He explained that he suspected the mahogany with which he was working was being poached out of the rain forest. "I think the rain forest should be left alone as much as possible," he said. He added that the trees, in his opinion, were much more astounding alive than turned into decoration for display in someone’s home.

Luckily Kip encountered the concept of permaculture, a means of reconciling the basic needs of people with the well-being of nature. He trained in permaculture design and has taught various classes on the subject. He also designed and co-managed a permaculture-inspired community garden at the University of South Carolina. Kip currently teaches a 12-hour introduction to permaculture course each spring in the Columbia area and is working on a second course in the fall.

Kip explained the practice of permaculture as "ecosystem dynamics applied to gardens and farms. It’s an effort to grow food to mimic natural systems where gardens are made to resemble a forest, but they’re made up of edible species." He also noted that permaculturists observe the patterns and connections that make nature work and apply them to consciously designed landscapes.

Part of Kip’s effort to educate the community about foraging practices and permaculture includes the walks and nature tours he does with individuals and groups. Kip’s walks are open to the public and he encourages interested individuals and clubs to contact him. He also expressed that he’d be interested and willing to do foraging and other natural walks and tours in Kershaw County if there were interest from groups or individuals. His permaculture course will begin April 8 and will meet every Tuesday through the end of May in Columbia.

He noted that the course will discuss such sustainable tactics as collecting rainwater, designing energy efficient homes and buildings, making existing structures more energy efficient and how to work towards a low energy intensive lifestyle. All of these practices, along with foraging, are what Kip describes as "transformative" efforts, meaning that they change a person’s consciousness about the natural world, the more he or she is involved in them.

Lugoff Garden Club member Charlene Henderson said, of Kip’s foraging tour, "I wish everyone could have been there. I will never look at ‘weeds’ in the same manner again. (I’m) ready to go again." Kip said he wants to promote resourcefulness in people when facilitating these tours. While he says it wouldn’t be feasible for a person to construct their entire diet from materials found foraging, one’s diet can be strongly augmented by foraging. He said his own children put blackberries from their garden on their morning cereal and incorporate the wild greens they grow into their meals in various ways.

To find out more about Kip, his tours and his courses, visit his Facebook page under Matthew Kip: Permaculturist, Wild Food Forager; visit his website at www.ma tthewkip.com; or email him at sustainable south@hotmail.com.

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