Your browser is not optimized for viewing this website.

More information »

Ely Folk School

Filter by Subcategory


Harvesting Spruce Roots


with Charlie Cecil

Calendar Jul 31, 2021 at 9 am

Saturday, July 31, 2021
8:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Tuition: $10

Deep in the bog lies a precious resource for those who craft with natural materials. Spruce root is critical for birchbark canoe building and basketry. The beautiful white root can be used for lashing, sewing, and weaving. Because of their strength and flexibility, spruce root is ideal for the task. 

Come learn how to respectfully and safely harvest spruce roots and enjoy a hike while you’re at it! Root gathered will be used in the construction of the birch bark canoe currently being built at the Ely Folk School on Sunday afternoons! You will be able to contribute to this community building project and learn the techniques for harvesting your own roots for your own basketry projects. Join the Birch Bark Canoe Project on Sunday afternoon (August 1st) to learn about processing the roots and how it is used in our canoe.

Please dress appropriately for wandering the woods and digging through moss. Consider bringing a bug net! Class will meet at the Ely Folk School and depart in carpools from there. 

About the Instructor: Charlie Cecil has been living and working in the woods of northern Minnesota since 2011 when he began guiding canoe trips for the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base. Over the years, he has guided many canoe trips, worked with sled dogs, hiked and camped all over the state. He has participated in the Ely Folk School's Birch Bark Canoe Project since the summer of 2017 which has enabled Charlie to learn a wide range of skills that he is excited to share with this community.

Minnesota Medicinal Foraging


with Allie Austin

Calendar Aug 10, 2021 at 1 pm

Tuesday, August 10, 2021
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Tuition: $25  Materials: $25

Join us as we learn the basics of identifying, harvesting, and utilizing some of the most common medicinal herbs in Northern Minnesota. In this hands-on class, students will learn how to identify, harvest, dry, store, and use some of the most common medicinal herbs native to Northern Minnesota. This will be an in-classroom discussion as well as hands-on class- students will work with some freshly harvested herbs and will also learn to prepare some common remedies with them such as tincturing, teas, and infusions. Each student will take home their own herbal remedy made in class, and a Minnesota Medicinals handbook with photos, step-by-step instructions, and recipes!

About the Instructor: Allison Austin has been practicing herbalism for over 13 years. Her passion for plants and herbal medicine began in middle school, and has continued to play a central role in her life ever since. She has studied under herbalists in Minnesota, California, Texas, and with Mayan elders in Guatemala.

Allison is passionate about bringing the traditional practices of herbalism to people in a practical and accessible way, encouraging people to utilize herbs in their local area in order to become more self-sustainable, taking charge of their own health.

Bent Willow Rustic Furniture


with John Bajda

Calendar Aug 13, 2021 at 6 pm

Day One: Friday, August 13, 2021      6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Day Two: Saturday, August 28, 2021 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM 

Tuition: $120

Do you admire rustic furniture? Do you see handmade garden trellises, chairs made of sticks, rocking chairs, or garden benches and feel a little envy? You can build one yourself! This class gives you the instruction and space to dive into a one-of-a-kind rustic furniture project - your options are endless! 

Throughout history, craftspeople have used the natural looks of sticks and logs to express themselves creatively. This art is productive and highly practical while also allowing the crafter to showcase the beauty and variety offered by Mother Nature. Each and every piece will be unique since no two trees or branches are exactly the same. You will have the chance to design your piece based on the materials you find. 

Find a bend, twist, burl, or root which will make your piece truly your own creation. You’ll be able to build your piece in one day, with several hours of instruction and a willingness to put in a good day of wok. 

This rewarding class sends you home with a project you will use and admire for years to come. It is helpful to register in pairs - a partner can help you wrangle your sticks or logs and assemble your project. The partner attends class for free if they do not make their own project. 

Day One consists of an introduction to rustic furniture, a demonstration with some hands-on tool use, and information on building material. The time between classes will allow you to choose your exact project - Bench? Chair? Trellis? - and collect building material. Day Two will be spent building your project. 

John will give you all the instruction you need to gather workable materials on day one. You will then have two weeks to collect and create a rough sketch of your project. 

If you have questions or would like to begin collecting material prior to August 13, you can contact John at 218-340-0169  or

About the Instructor: John Bajda is a retired high school teacher and has been teaching rustic furniture building though his local community ed program for the past 15+ years. See one of John's bent willow chairs on display in the Ely Folk School window! 

Quiet Hunt for Forest Gold: Mushroom Foraging


with Olena Johnson

Calendar Aug 14, 2021 at 9 am

Saturday, August 14, 2021
9:00 AM - 1:00 PM 

Tuition: $54

In this course, you will learn the basic skills needed to safely identify and collect wild mushrooms. 

An initial hour-long classroom discussion will include a Mycology overview, identification, ethics, safety, storage, and preparation. We will cover the best edible mushroom species to know and learn about the most common poisonous species to avoid. In addition, we will discuss the best tools and techniques for efficient and environmentally-conscious mushroom hunting – including weather watching, trip planning, land surveys and mapping, mushroom hunting outfits, reference materials, new mushroom ID documentation, and mushroom preservation.

There will be a Q&A session following the presentation. 

Weather permitting, we will reconvene in the State Forest for two hours of mushroom hunting where we will apply your newly acquired knowledge. 

After you participate, you will receive a copy of the class presentation for your reference.

Who This Course is for:

This course is ideal for anyone interested in learning or improving skills of efficient, and safe mushroom hunting, whether in a wilderness, rural, or urban setting. 

This Course will be Great for:

  • Beginning mushroom foragers seeking an introduction to mushroom hunting
  • Experienced mushroom hunters wishing to add new skills and insights to their existing foraging practices
  • Outdoor enthusiasts desiring better familiarity with the wild mushrooms they encounter in the field
  • Parents who wish to teach children the safest ways of interacting with wild mushrooms
  • Any mushroom-curious folks who want to identify the mushrooms they encounter!

Mushrooms are out there - let’s go and get them!

About the Instructor: Olena Johnson is a certified wild mushroom forager splitting time between Chanhassen and Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. Here is her foraging story in her own words:

“I grew up in Ukraine and have been mushroom hunting since I was a young child. Back in Ukraine, every fall, my family frequented forests near the Belarussian border to hunt for mushrooms. 

This annual tradition ceased in 1996 after the Chernobyl nuclear accident polluted approximately 2,000,000 acres of forest. Foraging was prohibited in that area as all the wild berries and mushrooms were contaminated by radiation. 

I rediscovered my mushroom hunting hobby approximately 15 years ago while hiking in Banning State Park. There were huge clusters of Honey mushrooms (Armillaria Sp.) along the trail, and mushroom abundance brought back childhood memories as if I were back in the familiar forests. 

From that point forward, I was hooked on mushroom hunting again. I was very familiar with European mushrooms. However, I was very eager to learn about North American mushroom species and their common English names.  

Every summer and fall, I have been trekking up north in search of illusive ‘forest gold’. I purchased tons of mushroom guides, read a multitude of internet posts, and watched an insane amount of YouTube videos. Furthermore, I took mushroom classes and got certified. 

Lo and behold, I started noticing mushrooms everywhere and began sharing my knowledge with curious folks seeing me with baskets full of mushrooms. Each year, I challenge myself to find just as many mushrooms or more than prior years and learn about new species along the way.

Most of the time, I go on my ‘quiet hunt’ alone. I safeguard my ‘forest gold’ spots closely and prefer not to share them with anyone. Nevertheless, occasionally friends and acquaintances will convince me to take small groups on mushroom hunt in the new spots. I am always willing to teach and help ID mushrooms I know well. And when I come back with a large mushroom bounty, most of the time it will be shared amongst my friends."

Get Ready for Wild Rice Harvesting


with LynnAnne Vesper

Calendar Aug 14, 2021 at 6 pm

Saturday, August 14, 2021
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 

Tuition: $25

Are you ready for this ricing season? If you're thinking about going out to harvest wild rice this year, don't miss this class!

This evening is designed for people who want to begin harvesting wild rice. We will learn about Ojibwe harvesting traditions, tools, and techniques. Students will be taught how to recognize when rice is ready for harvest and how to harvest in a sustainable manner without damaging plants. We will also go over current laws and regulations surrounding the wild rice harvest.

While this class is intended for first-time rice harvesters, people who simply have an interest in learning more about our iconic northern Minnesota grain are welcome to join.

About the Instructor: LynnAnne Vesper has guided canoe and dogsled trips for over two decades, teaching all the skills needed to participants. She has taken Ely Folk School participants out ricing for several years. She has taught with Elderhostel programs, the Swedish and French Voyageur summer youth programs, Corcordia Language Villages and Vermilion Community College.

Mushroom Cultivation: Three Ways to Grow Gourmet Mushrooms at Home


with Nik Prenevost

Calendar Sep 11, 2021 at 11 am

Saturday, September 11, 2021
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Tuition: $25

Mushroom growing is gaining in popularity as people are better understanding the health benefits as well as the culinary value. Various mushrooms have peaked peoples interest for home cultivation. Growing shiitakes, lion's mane, wine caps and oyster mushrooms are an excellent way to easily grow mushrooms for your own consumption.

The class will cover three different methods to grow mushrooms year round. These three methods range from beginner to intermediate so anyone could participate, even kids! Mushroom growing is a unique experience that brings learning opportunities for growing your own food.

Grow your food. Eat your mushrooms.

About the Instructor: Nik Prenevost cultivated mushrooms at Mississippi Mushrooms LLC for seven years from 2012-2019 and is currently a consultant for growing mushrooms in the Twin Cities. 

"I believe in supplementing your diet with locally sourced food that you have grown yourself. It is the ultimate way to know what it is in your food and what inputs it took to grow it. Cultivating mushrooms is one of the most satisfying forms of growing food I have experienced, especially since the turn around is so quick in comparison to tradition garden growing plants. Fungal farming is an exciting adventure that keeps me learning new techniques to cultivate but also insights into how our own biome works. When I grow mushrooms, I feel so connected to the food source and the final dish tastes that much better. I want to help people learn through easy techniques to grow mushrooms and be apart of this growing trend."


Forgot password?
Staff Log In