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Environmental Professionals Network

School of Environment and Natural Resources


Eat This Earth Day! Ohio's Native Plants for Food

Photo button from a collection of different images from the EPN Jan Breakfast

Program Overview

Ohio State’s Environmental Professionals Network, in collaboration with the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens and native plant enthusiasts from across the state, proudly invite you to eat and drink from Ohio’s native plants this Earth Day! Discover through your senses, the edible flora of the Buckeye State. Over long periods of history, through the tastes, smells, and eyes of diverse native wildlife and human cultures, both ancient and present, these plants have sustained life.

Ohio’s native wildlife need native plants for calories and to fight off invasive predators. Ohio’s native plants have adapted to and shape Ohio’s geography, offering shelter for the native wildlife we treasure. Since at least 800 BCE, human societies have utilized and shaped our region’s incredible food web! Our Earth Day event, which occurs during Ohio’s and the United States’ National Native Plant Month (April), examines our place among Ohio’s native food web and explores the work of leading gardeners, educators, herbalists and foragers, amateurs and other groups stewarding native plants for food.

Event headliners include native plant and garden experts: Nancy Linz (president, Ohio Native Plant Month; founder, National Native Plant Month), who will engage attendees on the building of social and political movements to advance native plants; Debra Knapke (“The Garden Sage” teacher, lecturer, garden designer, consultant, and gardener), who will share how to craft your garden for cultivated foraging; and Brad Lepper (senior archeologist, World Heritage Program, Ohio History Connection), who will present on the food producing capacity of the ancient Indigenous Hopewell culture.

In the spotlight are the Asimina triloba (the American papaw), Acer saccharum (the sugar maple), and Vaccinium pallidum (the lowbush blueberry) who will be joined on stage by hybrid chestnuts, acorn flour, and many kinds of native shrub berries. Each of these species draws a wide audience of eaters. Experience The Private Life of Bees Exhibit with Denise Ellsworth (program director, Pollinator Education, Ohio State Entomology and Extension) as well as interactive exhibits with guest appearances by Steve Matthews, James Mann, Amy Stone, Marne Titchenell, Gabe Karns, Carrie Brown, Carri Jagger, Badger Johnson, Stephen Rist, Joe CarterJake NicholsonForaged & Sown, and more! 

Also joining the show are the 2024 Ohio Native Plants of Distinction: Liriodendron tulipifera (the tulip poplar), Ilex verticillata (the winterberry holly), Stylophorum diphyllum (the wood poppy), Lonicera sempervirens (the coral/trumpet honeysuckle aka “woodbine”)!

Our event’s opening act includes Dr. Laura Deeter (Sandy and Andy Ross Endowed Director of the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens) and Dr. Tim Haab (interim director, SENR), who will lead the induction of two new Honorary 100 members! Throughout the event, attendees will have the opportunity to interact with Ohio State Environment and Natural Resource senior capstone project posters as well as National Science Foundation EmPOWERment trainee sustainability research project posters. Don’t miss a special announcement of “What does sustainability look like to you?” photography contest winners by RESTORExchange and the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State. 

While there will be many heroes in the form of native plants and plant stewards in attendance there will also be villains too! Stay vigilant for the Spotted Lanternfly among other invasives, unfortunately, they may have too great of an appetite for our native vegetation! Human attendees will have access to free food, drinks (featuring native plants) as well as a native pollinator plant giveaway and informational take-ways to ensure the seeds you plant in 2024 produce food for generations to come.

Eat This Earth Day is a free public event, hosted in-person at The Fawcett Center in Columbus, Ohio, and virtually, worldwide, through an EPN livestream production.

Join us on April 22 to celebrate the interconnectedness of native plants, wildlife and people.


4:45 p.m. Doors open, food and beverage served.

The following exhibits will from from 4:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Private Life of Bees 

Ohio's Edible Landscapes: Pawpaws and Other Shrub/Tree Berries 

Ohio's Hardwoods: Chestnuts, Oaks, Maples and more! 

National Science Foundation EmPowerment and SENR Senior Capstone Posters 

Regional Organization Exhibition 

5:45 p.m. Welcome remarks and livestream service begins. 

Tim Haab, PhD, interim director, Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) provides welcome remarks and Honorary 100 recognition. 

Laura Deeter, PhD, professor, Ohio State’s Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Sandy and Andy Ross endowed director, Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens, addresses the program theme and reviews the agenda of activities. 

Brad Lepper, PhD, senior archeologist, World Heritage Program, Ohio History Connection presents on food producing capacity of the ancient Indigenous Hopewell culture.

6:30 p.m. Production Partners Media provides virtual attendees with a brief tour through the exhibition areas.

7:00 p.m. Signature presentations on Eat This Earth Day! Ohio's Native Plants for Food by

Debra Knapke, owner, The Garden Sage presents “Gardens for Cultivated Foraging”.

Nancy Linz, co-founder, Native Plant Month, provides closing remarks on National Native Plant Month, building a social and political movement to advance native plants.

Dr. Haab, RESTORExchange and the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State announce the winners of the “What does sustainability look like to you?” photography contest and cash prizes are awarded! Exhibits and livestreaming services end.

7:30 p.m. All programming concludes.

This evening event follows the School of Environment and Natural Resources 2024 Student Research Symposium occuring earlier from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at The Fawcett Center. For more information, visit 



Chris WinslowLaura Deeter, PhD, professor, Ohio State’s Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Sandy and Andy Ross endowed director, Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens

As a professor and director, Dr. Deeters serves as a mentor to undergraduate students, advisor for arboretum operations and planning, and leader to arboretum initiated educational programming. She teaches undergraduate courses in landscape design and management, propagation, and woody and herbaceous plant identification. Dr. Deeter earned a B.S. and Ph.D. in Landscape Horticulture from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Most recently, Dr. Deeter has served as Professor in the Division of Horticultural Technologies at the Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) on our CFAES Wooster campus. Dr. Deeter has been awarded the ATI Distinguished Teaching Award three times, the OSU Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Perennial Plant Association Teaching Award, the American Horticulture Society Teaching Award, Perennial Plant Association Service Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Landscape Association, and Professor of the Year from Instructure.

Heather StirrattBrad Lepper, PhD, senior archeologist, World Heritage Program, Ohio History Connection

Dr. Lepper earned his BA degree from the University of New Mexico and his MA and PhD degrees from The Ohio State University. His primary areas of interest include the Ice Age peoples of North America, Ohio's magnificent mounds and earthworks, and the history of North American archaeology. Dr. Lepper has written extensively on these subjects for both technical journals and magazines intended for a general audience. He is the author of the book, Ohio Archaeology: an illustrated chronicle of Ohio's ancient American Indian cultures, published in 2005 by Orange Frazer Press. He also writes a monthly column on archaeology for the Columbus Dispatch. Especially noteworthy research includes the excavation of the Burning Tree mastodon in December of 1989 (named one of the top 50 science discoveries of 1990 by Discover magazine in their January 1991 issue) and the discovery of the Great Hopewell Road, first reported in 1995 (see Archaeology magazine, November/December 1995). Dr. Lepper's research on the Great Hopewell Road was featured in the public television documentary Searching for the Great Hopewell Road first broadcast in April of 1998. Dr. Lepper was born and raised in northeastern Ohio, and now lives in Newark, in the vicinity of the extensive ancient earthworks of that region, with his wife Karen, two children, one dog, and four cats.


Cathann KressDebra Knapke, owner, The Garden Sage

Debra Knapke has loved plants as long as she can remember. in 1992, after two other careers,  Debra turned her avocation of plant study and gardening into her full-time career.  Debra is passionate about all types of gardening – especially regenerative, food, and wildlife gardens – and the natural world. She enjoys sharing knowledge through her presentations and classes, books, magazine and newsletter articles, podcasts, guest appearances on the radio program All Sides with Ann Fisher and Anna Staver, and teaching horticultural and design classes, for 24 years (1995-2019), at Columbus State Community College. Currently Debra teaches in-person and online for the Columbus Garden School, Groovy Plants Ranch, and several other venues. She has served on various local and national committees and boards that focus on education, the environment, and sustainability and is currently the co-chair of the Sustainability Committee of GardenComm. She is also Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Walnut Grove and Flint Cemeteries where she has been a part of the design team for Flint Cemetery and is the Trustee-at-Large on the Cemetery Board. She loves being in touch with the Earth and has packed an amazing variety of perennials, trees, shrubs, and edible plants onto the 2/3-acre lot surrounding her home.


Seidel Headshot

Nancy Linz, president, Ohio Native Plant Month; founder, National Native Plant Month

Nancy Linz is Horticulture Conservationist and longtime Ohio gardener with degrees in Horticulture from both Ohio State and Penn State.  In college, Nancy studied floriculture and ornamental horticulture, but now dedicates her time to learning about Ohio’s native plants and sharing her passion with others. In 2018 and 2019, Nancy worked with the Former First Lady of Ohio, Hope Taft, leading an effort to pass a law designating the month of April as Ohio Native Plant Month, the first state in the country to have a law recognizing the importance of native plants for an entire month. Nancy currently serves as the President of the Ohio Native Plant Month organization. Since then, Nancy has worked alongside Senator Portman, Senator Mike Bruan, and over one hundred green organizations across the country to recognize National Native Plant Month. In late 2022, The Garden Club of America asked Nancy to head an initiative working with their hundreds of clubs across the country to request proclamations from all 50 governors to make April 2023 Native Plant Month in every state. Nancy continues to work with states to renew native plant proclamations as they work toward passing laws making the month of April permanently Native Plant Month in every state. Using legislation as a platform for change, Nancy works with nature centers, parks, arboretums, garden clubs, schools, and other organizations to teach others about the importance of native plants and encourage them to plant native plants to provide food and shelter for wildlife.



Additional Information

This evening event’s menu features hors d'oeuvres including vegan caesar endive spears, hummus and vegetable crudite, fruit cups, caprese skewers, spinach and feta spanakopita, mac n cheese croquette, and BLT crostini. Coffee, hot and iced tea, fruit infused water and water will be served. Cash bar available. There will be plates, cups, woodware, and napkins.  

We strive to host events that are inclusive and accessible to everyone. If you have a disability and require accommodations to fully participate in this activity, please reach out to Callia Téllez ( Requests made five business days in advance will generally allow us to provide seamless access. However, we will make every effort to meet requests made after this time frame. You will be contacted by someone from our staff to discuss your specific needs. For the virtual audience, a closed captioning option via EPN’s YouTube live stream will be available, as well as other accommodations as requested on the registration.

Masks are optional for all event attendees at this event, in accordance with Ohio State’s Safe and Healthy Protocols as of this date. In-person attendees will be expected to follow Ohio State protocols regarding the prevention of COVID-19 transmission. More health and safety information available on this Personal Safety Practices page

This program will be livestreamed on the  EPN YouTube page. Additional information on livestream connections are available to those who register as a virtual participant for this event. 

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