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Foraging workshop encourages a reconnection with Appalachian traditions, inspires a mindful relationship with nature

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many new hobbies were adopted. For four retired friends, respite was found in learning to forage in the forests of West Virginia.

Inspired by a growing interest in the practice, they formed The Foraging Queens, a group dedicated to volunteer work and environmental outreach. A few years later and with a fifth member, they are now partnering with Arthurdale Heritage and Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) to share their foraging skills with the community at this Sunday’s Spring Foraging Workshop.

Food is at the heart of community and holds a starring role in many childhood memories. Buckwheat cakes, pepperoni rolls and cornbread are iconic Appalachian recipes that often take center stage when considering regional cuisine, but foraging also has deep roots in the area’s heritage. Early settlers learned about edible plants from Indigenous Americans, cementing foraging as an essential part of Appalachian history. Today, echoes of these traditions persist in nostalgic memories of picking blackberries with grandparents or scouring the forest for ginseng. However, many edible plants abundant in the state remain overlooked. This is just one of the topics to be discussed during this weekend’s Spring Foraging Workshop at Arthurdale Heritage.

“I think [foraging] is such an integral part of our history and I think it’s such an integral part of understanding your connection with the land, which I think we’ve kind of lost a little bit over time but people are starting to get reinvigorated,” said FODC operations manager Maya Mier-Thomas.

Last October, The Foraging Queens — Elaine Bowen, Ann Chester-McGraw, Betty Critch, Jackie Mier and Jacquelyn Core — partnered with FODC for an Introduction to Local Foraged Edibles event at Arthurdale Heritage. Following its success and feedback from attendees, this weekend’s workshop will offer a deeper exploration of foraging techniques and provide hands-on experience.

Designed with beginners in mind, the workshop kicks off with an hour-long stroll along the Deckers Creek Rail-Trail. Led by The Foraging Queens, participants will practice identifying and gathering edible spring plants under the guidance of seasoned experts.

Back at Arthurdale Center Hall, attendees will move between four tables showcasing methods of preparing foraged ingredients and opportunities to taste recipes constructed from foraged ingredients. Recipes to be shared by The Foraging Queens include teas, jams and jellies, syrups, herbal butters and cocktails — the culinary possibilities are as vast as the forest itself.

This event is part of a greater effort to bring more outreach to Preston County. By spotlighting the impacts of invasive plant species and encouraging mindful engagement with nature, the event aims to rekindle a sense of connection with the natural world.

“Our goals are to be able to connect with the [Preston County] community and be able to provide environmental education, as well as just help people get excited and in touch with the land in a way that serves them and the land that provides for them,” said Mier-Thomas. “As human population growth increases and our green spaces decrease, that just means we’ll have to be more mindful in how we connect with the land in a way that’s sustainable and allows it to support us year after year.”

This event also connects to the history of the land it’s being held on, reflecting the ways homesteaders of Arthurdale sustained themselves with the land’s yield in the 1930s.

“This is a very strong part of our history, and I think foraging is a close cousin to [homesteading], by learning how to be self-sufficient and use what is around you to sustain yourself,” said Arthurdale Heritage Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member Mary Linscheid.

The Foraging Queens member Jackie Mier expects to find a variety of edible plants along the Deckers Creek Rail-Trail on Sunday, such as violets, dandelions, garlic mustard, chickweed, Japanese knotweed and more. These plants will be ripe and ready to be processed into a syrup or soup, and many of them can be found right in your own yard. Participants will learn to recognize and name the “weeds” that speckle their yards, no longer viewing them as pests but as vital resources for themselves and the surrounding ecosystem.

“It’s not just the things that you forage in the wild, it’s things you can also forage from your own garden,” said Mier.

A limited number of tickets for the Spring Foraging Workshop are available at until Saturday night. Ticket proceeds support Arthurdale Heritage and FODC. Visit and for more information on participating organizations.

Attendees will convene in the parking lot of the Deckers Creek Trail: Reedsville Trailhead at noon Sunday for the foraging walk portion of the event, rain or shine. The event will conclude at 5 p.m.

For further opportunities to foster a green thumb and sense of community, FODC hosts weekly gardening from 10 a.m.-noon Wednesdays in the spring and summer at its Outdoor Learning Park behind the Sabraton Kroger.