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The 2012 Shaker Swamp Walk was a great success!
  The 2012 Mount Lebanon HerbFest included a 2-hour Shaker Swamp Walk to identify medicinal herbs, led by Claudia and Conrad Vispo of Hawthorne Valley Ecology Center, the showing of Ted Timreck's film Medicinal Wetlands, and more than 30 other walks, talks, demonstrations and workshops about herbs in food, pharmacy, gardening and local history. See article below for more about the Mount Lebanon HerbFest event and the Shaker Swamp Walk.

Pictured from left: Nancy Wolf (Head of School), Congressman Chris Gibson, Geoffrey Miller (Darrow School), Fiona Lally (President of LBVA), Christopher Zema (Zema's Nursery), Mike Benson (Supervisor Town of New Lebanon), Linda Hursa (Angel's Trumpet). Photo by Jane Feldman

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Herbfest combines cooking classes, history

By Trevor Alford
Courtesy Hudson-Catskill Newspapers (Register-Star.com)

NEW LEBANON - Hundreds of people looking to learn about herbs and their uses were drawn this weekend to a new festival put on by the Lebanon Valley Business Association with help from the Darrow School.

The two-day Mount Lebanon Herbfest was considered a success by all who worked on it. The event included more than 30 nature walks, educational presentations and classes.

"It's a first time event, but its got so much energy, attendance, professionalism and fun," said Devin Franklin, a member of the festival's committee.

On Saturday, the New Lebanon Business Council brought out 14 local vendors who sold herb-themed food and wares in downtown New Lebanon.

More that 170 people attended the Herbfest Sunday for a series of informative lectures and swamp walks at the Darrow School. Visitors learned to cook with herbs, make their own massage lotions and oils, create their own household cleaners made from herbs and identify edible herbs in their own backyards.

Speakers also discussed New Lebanon's history in medicinal herbs, which began with the local Native Americans. In the early 1800s, the area was home to the Tilden Company, one of the country's oldest pharmaceutical companies.

Classes and lectures touched on various topics ranging from fellow herb experts to newcomers finding their green thumbs.

"It was great to get so many people here from diverse locations," said Michelle Apland, an LVBA member and executive director of Flying Deer Farm. "It's great to see a lot of people I know from this area, but also see a lot of new people."

Fiona Lally, LVBA president and the mastermind behind Herbfest, said the only negative comment she heard over the course of the festival was that people couldn't get to every single class or activity.

"We set it up that way," Lally said. "We knew it would be heart-breaking but we also knew that that meant there would be something for everybody, all the time."

Shaker Swamp Walk

Some of the most successful attractions Sunday were the swamp walks, where visitors got a tour of the Shaker Swamp, which is known for its bounty of medicinal herbs.

Visitors were led into the swamp in search of Shaker ruins and rare medicinal plants, which can only flourish in the limestone-rich waters of the swamp.

Karen Ross, a volunteer with the event, attended a nature walk led by Claudia and Conrad Vispo, from the Hawthorn Valley Farmscape Ecology Program.

"Claudia led us through a swamped forest environment and was pointed out native plants and medicinals that the Shakers used, according to the books we have on what they used," she said.

Local vendors who use or grow and incorporated various herbs into their products were also present at Herbfest.

"It was good," said Helen Rice, of Pittstown, in Rensselaer County, who was one visitor happy with the event. "I want to emphasize the classes. There were a lot of interesting classes."

Herbfest's planners are already looking toward next year, when they hope to bring in more attendees with a more robust advertising campaign. Lally and others said they have already been approached by locals who want to volunteer and be a part of next year's event.


Photo by Jane Feldman

For a listing of upcoming HerbFest activities, times and locations, visit the
Mount Lebanon HerbFest Website

Mount Lebanon HerbFest
is a project of the Lebanon Valley Business Association
PO Box 25, New Lebanon, NY, 12125

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The mission of the Shaker Swamp Conservancy is to preserve the Shaker Swamp as a unique and defining asset of the Lebanon Valley, to promote understanding of this natural resource and its human heritage, and to create related opportunities for public access, education, and recreation. 


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Photo Credits: Claudia & Condrad Vispo, and Karen Ross

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