County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Foraging Class with Conservation District Forester Joe Nash


HARRISON – Nestled within a beautiful span of 560 wooded acres, The Poet Family Outdoor Education Center of Mid Michigan College is an idyllic setting for anyone interested in opportunities for outdoor schooling. With its pristine amenities, surround of windows, and fresh air wafting in, it is enough to entice any outdoor enthusiast to venture onto the wide variety of trails that this beautiful campus has to offer.

Joe Nash, the local forester serving the Clare and Gladwin Conservation districts, is bringing a great deal of expertise to the table. With a Master of Science degree in Forest Resource Management, he is a wealth of knowledge and incredible resource for the Clare community. Nash initially began his educational career with a focus in horticulture and botany, thinking his professional journey would lead him toward working with gardening and greenhouses. But, after a stint in Colorado where he lived in a tent in the woods for two summers, he quickly realized his passion for the forest, stating he eventually “realized that I could study forestry and my job could be to walk out into the woods. So, I moved back to Michigan and went to Michigan Tech to study forestry, and just kind of hit the ground running.”

His day-to-day primarily consists of site visits for landowners, where Nash holds a great deal of enthusiasm for serving his community.  Beyond site visits, he is also responsible for community outreach programs. As part of that community outreach, he has put together a free two-hour introductory class for the community on foraging for wild edibles. The class consists of a 40-minute Power Point presentation, with the remaining time spent hiking trails and identifying a variety of edibles as well as local flora and fauna. Nash states his goal is for the class to be “less of a lecture and more a discussion,” which is exactly the environment he creates. Questions and outside expertise were graciously welcomed by all, and his easy-going demeanor fostered an environment where everyone felt free to engage.

Nash said he believes a lot of people tend to shy away from wild edibles due to lack of comfortability, and his goal with these classes is to help people feel more comfortable and confident. He creates a safe balance by emphatically sharing words of caution while focusing the outdoor portion more toward sleuthing identifiable edibles by their unique appearance. Combined with the guidance of his expertise, he creates ease of mind for those new to foraging. Nash says that, when spending a lot of time in the wood, the question of “what can I eat” comes up, and he wisely repeats a catchy mantra throughout the class instructing: “Don’t munch on a hunch.”

The hike is a low key, half-mile section of the trail system at Mid Michigan College, and the wide breadth of the well-maintained trails offers a comfortable terrain for participants of all ages. The class accommodated a diverse variety of students ranging from toddlers to grandparents on an outing with their grandchildren.

“My whole point with these workshops is that they are open to all,” Nash emphasizes.

Nash noted what a perfect setting the trail system at Mid Michigan College is for these classes.

“The trail system is so well developed that even with a big group you can get around and it feels like you’re hiking in the woods,” he said. The privately owned trail system is open year-round and houses 22 miles of hiking trails, with 19 of those allowed for bicycles. Nash also noted the exceptional trail system housed by the college.

“What I like most about it is that there is diversity in the trees,” he said. “But especially like right at the start here there is really old oak trees, like 150 years and older oaks right at the start, and that is really interesting to me because we’re losing a lot of old oaks in the county to oak decline and oak wilt. So, to still have a lot of living old oaks is really unique.”

Nash is very passionate about serving his community and looks forward to hosting and creating content for other classes down the road.

“I’m a public servant,” he said. “I’m just here to help people. I don’t have any particular agenda, I just want to help people understand your forests better and how to manage them.”

While he has hosted other classes in the past, such as a winter tree ID hike last year, this foraging for wild edibles class was content Nash created on his own due to an interest he saw within the community.

“These particular foraging ones were just kind of an idea I had of I think this would be fun,” Nash said. “This is the second one, and it’s been so well received that it will just keep being an ongoing series.”

For the first offering of this foraging class Nash partnered with Osceola County, and he had so many people signed up he ended up having to cap the class at 60 participants. His class here in Clare County continued the trend with a draw of approximately 45 community members.

 While there are no dates currently set, Nash plans to host another broad foraging event in the fall in Gladwin County, and later in the fall he will be hosting a forest forensic hike, which he explains will consist of “essentially walking out into the woods and reading the landscape. Which trees are here and the growth form that they have, what does that tell us about what was here previously.”

Beyond that he looks forward to expanding on this introductory class to foraging for wild edibles with plans for more specific foraging classes, such as ones focusing strictly on mushrooms. Keep an eye out for announcements from the Clare Conservation District via its Facebook page or website ( regarding future classes offerings and dates led by Joe Nash for the Clare and Gladwin communities.


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