them, they develop a deeper understanding of the natural world and are more likely to become good environmental stewards in the future.
In 1996, Frances became a volunteer for the Missouri Department of Conservation. It didn’t take long for her to introduce the staff of Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center to wild edible collecting. We sampled and learned to identify Jerusalem artichoke and cattail. Then gooseberries, smooth sumac, blackberries, pawpaws and persimmon… . The list continues to grow. Over the past few years she has become something of a guru to all of us. Her programs have grown exponentially in popularity.
The Wild Ones
Before long, the other volunteers discovered her message. She now has a loyal group of volunteers that work side by side with her to develop programs on a monthly basis, dubbing themselves the “Wild Ones.” They worked together to produce a Wild Edibles Cookbook titled Eat Your Weedies. This publication is so popular that they have a difficult time keeping enough copies on hand.
Not long ago, Frances and I met to brainstorm ideas for upcoming programs. We became excited about this idea and then that. Typically lively and animated, Frances suddenly became quiet. At last she looked up, misty-eyed, and said, “I have often pondered the significance of my life. Now I understand. My purpose is to share these traditions that have been passed down to us from our ancestors.” It was her mission to share the excitement and importance of these natural gifts with our children, she explained. It would be her gift to everyone who wanted to listen.
Camaraderie, support and teamwork have grown between Frances and the other Wild Ones. Each one of these volunteers plays a role in developing programs and in writing their book. As they meet at the Nature Center each week, present new findings and discuss new ideas, Frances sits back and smiles quietly, proud of her team and what they have accomplished together. She is confident in their abilities and is able to turn over the lead in programs to her counterparts.
Frances and the Wild Ones present a monthly program throughout the growing season. These programs include: spring greens, a spring tea room, a tour that focuses specifically on purslane, wild grapes, and an annual Soup and Fable program.
Soup and Fable is presented as if it were a fine dining experience. Autumn’s