On Shelter Island, an Invitation to Forage on the Farm

If, as Emerson says, a weed is simply a “plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered,” this June offers the chance not only to discover the virtues of our wild-roaming friends but to open medicinal secrets of nature’s untamed vegetation. What’s more, it’s a chance to hop on a ferry for an adventure to Shelter Island’s Sylvester Manor.

On Saturday, June 16, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., herbalist Dawn Petter of Petalune Herbals heads up the workshop Foraging on the Farm, a walking exploration of the area’s native wild-growing plants on the grounds of Sylvester Manor’s 250-acre organic educational farm. “It’s really a chance for participants to get to know the wild plants around us and to learn how to use them for medicine,” says Dawn.

Divided into two parts, the afternoon starts with a guided tour of the in-season local weeds. According to Dawn, students can expect to learn about “the traditional ways these native and invasive plants have been used by herbalists in some cases for thousands of years,” in addition to plant identification and the actions and uses of the medicines discussed.

Following the walk, the remainder of the class is devoted to making remedies and tasting various herbal preparations. Using both fresh plant material gathered on the farm and dried herbs from organic sources, students will make medicine for both internal and topical use. As a bonus, Dawn promises, “There will also be lots of creative recipes offered for further at-home use, too.”

“My experience of the farm tours I have done, at places like Amber Waves Farm and Brooklyn Grange, is that participants are thrilled to learn this ancient wisdom,” says Dawn, who trained as an herbalist at Arbor Vitae School of Traditional Herbalism and as a flower essence practitioner in Scotland and Maine. Since 2015, she’s presented her offerings as Petalune Herbals, an operation “committed to building the connection between people and plants and shifting awareness back to the simplicity and wisdom that nature offers.”

Consistent with Petalune’s mission, these herbal walks, as Dawn describes them, “connect us all back to an innate wisdom that our ancestors have known and practiced,” adding that students always leave “feeling empowered about ways to take control of their wellness by learning some basic tips about how to incorporate the wild plants around us into both food and medicine.”

Can’t make the workshop but interested to know more? Catch Dawn at other New York area venues, including the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, New York Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Grange. Dawn is also available for one-on-one consultations and offers a line of wildcrafted balms and tinctures. For more information, visit petaluneherbals.com.