EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The amphitheater workshop leaders know they have a challenge making a presentation during the Atlantic County Utilities Authority’s annual Earth Day celebration.

During the event, there are other attractions for the approximately 8,000 people in attendance, including food trucks, a playground hay maze, pony rides, mini yoga sessions, a 4-H petting zoo and shows on the Middle Earth Stage.

But, if the workshop leaders have the chance to make someone who is curious a hands-on practitioner, they are willing to devote the time.

Jen Sawyer, a program consultant with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, gave a talk on raising chickens in a backyard.

Sawyer developed her interest in agriculture from her grandfather, who grew up on a farm in North Carolina. Her grandfather was still an avid farmer when she was growing up in Wildwood Crest.

When Sawyer was younger, she rode horses. She had her own pony and was involved with 4-H.

Sawyer tries to pass on her love for the outdoors to her nieces and nephews, by having them do outdoor activities such bird watching.

“It’s not all beaches and boardwalk. Let’s look at the sand. Let’s look at the water,” said Sawyer, 44, of Lower Township.

The 30-minute backyard chicken workshop Sawyer led on Earth Day has a two-hour version, which has sold out twice in Cape May County.

Sawyer told the crowd to examine the reason they wanted to raise their own chickens:

“If you are getting chickens for the eggs, they will be the most expensive eggs you will ever have,” Sawyer said.

Backyard chicken raising interested Jacki Duran, 40, of Pleasantville. She learned what to feed chickens and what to do to house them. She also learned that she better check with her municipality first to see of it allows homeowners to have livestock on their property.

“She was very knowledgeable,” said Duran, who added having chickens could come into play for her because she is looking for a new house. “You have to have the space for it.”

Susan Hess, of Mays Landing, led a workshop about learning about echinacea, which has been used by more than a dozen Native American tribes as medicine for generations.

Hess, a therapeutical herbalist who attended herb school for three years during the 1990s, had a grandmother and mother who were nurses and introduced her to the health field.

“I worked in a health-food store. People were coming in and asking a lot of questions,” said Hess, 58, who then decided to educate herself further.

Mischelle “Raven” Ahmed, of Egg Harbor Township, is a conservationist and environmentalist who grew up in Atlantic County. She spent her childhood playing in the wooded areas at the edge of the Pine Barrens.

Ahmed, 54, has seen woods and habitats destroyed and a decline in plant and wildlife as room was made for the construction of housing developments.

Ahmed is doing her part to contribute to the plant and wildlife in the area by running the Earth First Native Plant Nursery. She led the first workshop talking about native plants for pollinators.

“Since I was 4, I was always into gardening. At 10 years old, I had a wildflower garden,” Ahmed said. “I started a nursery in 2008.”

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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