Jo and Scott Wohlfeld created Wildcrafters Natural Resource Extension, an educational and mentorship program, in the fall of 2013 to influence the way young people utilize resources in Ashe County.
Jo Wohlfeld said she became aware of young people feeling the need to leave the county in order to pursue diverse jobs and pastimes.
“So many kids don’t recognize that they can start their own jobs here,” Wohlfeld said. “So we decided that we could use Wildcrafters as a way to foster alternative hobbies and vocations.”
Wildcrafters, an unincorporated non-profit, hosts a range of workshops and demonstrations on a variety of topics, from small-scaling farming and botany to jewelry making and fashion design, all at little or no cost to the students.
Many Wildcrafters events are hosted at the Wohlfeld farm, which is “a short walk to and from Ashe Couty High School and Wilkes Community College.”
“We try to make it free for the kids, and we encourage them to volunteer at our farm, it’s a reciprocity thing,” Wohlfeld said.
The group also holds benefits to raise funds to bring in guest speakers, such as the grass-fed beef burger cook-off held in the fall, which raised the funds to bring in an instructor who demonstrated how to set-up a teepee and traditional Native American living.
Wohlfeld said her hope is that Wildcrafters can connect young people with new hobbies, which will possibly lead to trade opportunities by connecting kids with specialists in different fields, and allowing them to have hands-on exposure.
“I just want these kids to be self-sufficient, that’s the bottom line,” Wohlfeld said.
Kids involved with Wildcrafters have the opportunity to sell plants they grow and crafts they make at the Ashe County Farmers Market, and the proceeds go back to fund future programs.
Wildcrafters has planned a “Pedal and Paddle” event for the spring, which will bring participants biking and kayaking along Railroad Grade Road in Todd.
“We’re hoping to turn it into an Appalachian Community Bike Project,” Wohlfeld said, modeled after a project in Indiana called Blooming Community Bike Project that helps people recycle bicycles into the community.
The program strives to expose young people to the myriad resources in the county for both recreation and occupation.
“I want kids to understand how fun getting involved in the community can be,” Wohlfeld said. “We can do so much here to foster each other and improve our overall quality of life.”
From 1-4 p.m. on Feb. 15 Wildcrafters is offering a free class on organic gardening and companion planting for anyone 12 years old and older.
On 4 p.m. on Wednesdays Wildcrafters welcomes high school students to its farm facilty on Mt. Jefferson State Park Road to participate in classes to “experiment in the kitchen making delicious and nutritious gluten and gluten free” baked goods.
The next Wildcrafters fundraiser, a soup bowl benefit, will take place on Monday, March 3, location TBD.
Those interested in joining Wildcrafters can call (336) 846-1818. Wildcrafters can also be found on Facebook, to stay updated on upcoming events and workshops planned for 2014 in such diverse topics as syrup making, apple grafting, mushroom log inoculation, re-new jewelery, clothing and furniture design, portable small housing design and construction.
Christina Day can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @CDayinWJ