We interviewed Wild Harvest Nature Connection founders Alexander Britzius and Heather Hutchinson to learn more about their programs that involve intentional mentored time for children and adults in the outdoors – specifically at Madison and Dane County parks.
Dan Miller’s son has participated in activities through the organization, including foraging for “hen of the woods” mushrooms and tapping maple trees to make syrup. “Thanks to the mentoring and teaching provided by Wild Harvest Nature Connection, he’s developing a real appreciation and passion for the natural world,” Dan said.
According to the organization, the foundation of this mentoring is finding each person’s curiosities and passions and asking questions to lead the learning. Heather said the umbrella of the big picture vision for the organization is “we’re trying to instill in the children, adults, and ourselves a future-minded thinking and reconnecting with the earth in a reciprocal relationship so that we’re leaving this place better than we found it for those generations coming in that we may never meet or know.” Alex added that “slowing down, listening to our hearts, and having fun while doing so is really important, because nature and the earth need our help.”
Alex and Heather are partners in life and in work. They became parents the same year they started their business. “Liska is 7 years old and Wild Harvest is 7 years old, so we say they’re twins,” Alex said.
Wild Harvest Nature Connection works with over a dozen mentors and “elders/grandparents” to offer programs for all ages, including homeschool groups as well as ongoing Trees and Saplings (caregiver and little ones up to 10 years old), Saplings (4-7 years old), Wild Explorers (7-11 years old), Wild Tenders (12-18 years old), and Mentoring Through the Seasons (adults). The adult program is a quarterly meet up for 3 days each season meant for folks 18 years and older who want to learn about themselves and/or want to learn some new ideas (skills, activities, games, songs) to lead groups of kids.
“Our goal with the adult training program is to awaken adults into a caretaker kind of attitude, caretaker of the earth/self/people around in our lives, to be supportive, ask good questions, hear stories. People are also learning skills that could feed them, clothe them, and shelter them,” Alex said. “And our goal with kids is to provide a space for the same thing to hear their stories, to be somebody that they can tell their dreams to, hang out and joke around together and have a good time.”
In addition to being lighthearted about what they’re doing, the group has a deeper impact, too. “If people have experiences in nature where they learn to feel safe and loved and have love for the trees and sounds of the birds and insects, then the hope is that love is a value set and decisions will be made from that baseline,” Alex said. “We’re building community as we go, which we feel is an important thing to be weaving.”
This community aspect was especially prominent in both of their personal growth stories. “We both have college degrees and were looking for our spiritual center of gravity and kind of diverged on what I call a spiritual quest,” Alex said. They each did this in their own way and “had lots of experience connecting with nature” – Heather in a hummingbird community in New Mexico and Alex at the Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School in New Jersey. “We were looking for a place where service to the world and fun and adventure for our own self and passion could meet up, where those things could converge, and then also a place where also we felt there was something bigger than us as well,” he added.
Alex and Heather continue to get training so they can “refresh and grow” and offer more programs. “They say the book of nature has no beginning and no end; it really does just keep on going,” Alex added. “You could study mushrooms for 100 years and you would just scratch the surface; meanwhile there’s trees, medicinal plants, wildflowers, edible roots, and animal tracks, hunting, and on and on.”
Learn more about the programs at wildharvestnatureconnection.com. Keep in mind that many of the programs have waitlists, so it’s best to contact them as soon as possible for future programs and camps at email@example.com.