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Pro foraging: ya or nay?

 
pollinator
Posts: 157
Location: Monticello Florida
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I have an idea and after some googling found out that its an actual thing (imagine that!).
Professional Foraging
The plan: forage wild plants (it sounds like most pros do mushrooms, something I'm not good with yet), blog about foraging adventures and challenges for marketing, go to a big city where wild food is quite rare and sell it at an outdoor market, curbside setup from your car trunk, to restaurants, and/or pre-order pick-up or delivery.  Do you think rural landowners would let someone forage their property?
I would need to make $350/week (~59/day) to reach my goal.
Pros: flexibility, freedom, and it lines up nicely with my long term ambitions.
Cons: there are some restrictions in some places on selling (and collecting) wild food.
There could also be other income streams like foraging classes and writing a book. Value adding can help too. I've heard of stinging nettle pesto being quite expensive, plus jams, dehydrated stuff, nut flours and oils, pollen flours, pickles, etc.
What do you think? Crazy, Risky, Possible, Great idea, Terrible idea?  What details are missing?
 
gardener
Posts: 774
Location: Soutwest Ohio
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I know there are people who do mushroom hunting for market sale. In the US, the most common of these is Morel mushrooms. I think the biggest issue is that you'd find a need to make several thousand weekly in the peak season so you could balance out the leaner times. People pay top dollar for Morels or wild ginseng, but harvesting enough to earn well without also depleting the population (at least with the ginseng) of them can be tricky. Also, it's hard to find anyone paying well for many of the more common foraged foods that would be possible to obtain in bulk.

The easiest way around this I can think of is doing value-added harvesting. Taking a raw product like elderberry and turning it into tinctures, jellies, etc, as an example. This also allows you to gather at the peak production, but sell it over a longer period of time.
 
pollinator
Posts: 438
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It's a great idea and a total possibility. I think there are a couple questions you need to answer;

First, do you want this to be your primary/sole income source or a seasonal/side hustle type of thing?

If you just want a side hustle, you can focus on finding and testing a few local options as they come available during the year, try to figure out the cost+time to harvest some amount and get it to market and the cash value you can get for that amount. You could potentially use your early experiments as the foundation of your blog/video channel/etc...

If you want it to be your primary income source you're going to, most likely be a semi mobile harvester and you're going to need to do some further ranging research. It's not super likely that there are year round wild foods that are widely known and desired and/or extremely valuable right near where you live, but you might have something like morels or ginseng or something that can provide a big pay off if you are super diligent during it's harvest window.

There are likely private landowners that would be fine with you foraging, there is also legal foresting in all kinds of state and federal land, you usually need a permit at a commercial scale and there are usually some guidelines like legal harvest windows and extra protected areas. But it's definitely an option and the more flexible you are with your location the more harvest opportunities you'll have available to you
 
master pollinator
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I think an enterprising person could do something like this, but they would have to be very flexible in their outlook. I am saying this as a Mainer because it is all I really know, but a person could conceivably start the spring by planting trees for hire, then forage for Fiddleheads, then after that season is closed, pick strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and then apples. That would sustain a person from April to November. From November to April the might have to log, find a job on a farm, or put up a greenhouse and do inside food for the winter farmer's markets that are here.

Their expenses would have to be modest, flexible in where they live in Maine, be willing to negotiate with loggers, farmers and fishermen, but with a good outlook, a lot of hard work, they should be able to pull it off.
 
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i knew guys in north fla that used to forage for gopher tortoises and set trot lines across ponds for long neck softshells and made a good living.
that was a long long time ago. its now illegal to eat gopher tortoises in fla.
if you have a knack for gathering something and its plentiful and theres a market for it. go to it.
me and a friend once made exectutive like salary gathing unwanted stuff out of dunpsters in industrial parks and selling it on ebay
when i was a kid in miami we would remove back seat from car, cruise the alley's and fill it to windows with oranges and sell them at flea market.
if theres a will theres a way
 
pioneer
Posts: 81
Location: Sydney, Australia. Subtropics
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If you want some inspiration, here is a guy from Queensland, Australia who forages food to sell direct to chefs.

https://wildforageaustralia.com.au/

https://www.instagram.com/wildforageaustralia/

 
gardener
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Perfectly viable And highly beneficial job, there! Just, please, harvest responsibly? Irresponsible harvesting is the reason we have so many valuable herbs on the endangered lists, now.
 
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Certain medicinal herbs are primarily available through wildcrafting, which is another word for foraging. Companies like American Botanicals will buy them from you. A lot of fur buyers also buy wildcrafted herbs, although they tend to focus on specific ones, such as ginseng.

Also, there's a company in Missouri that buys foraged black walnuts, and another that buys milkweed pods.
 
gardener
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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I would not limit myself to native wild growth.  If you could get a relationship with people that have a single tree that they are not harvesting, it could be a decent income.

One lady let me pick pears from her tree after she got what she wanted. I got 10 gallons and there are probably 30 more gallons, they were too high for me to reach when i went over there.

I canned most of them and brought her a couple of jars. That gesture should keep me invited down the road. Although at some point my own trees will be giving me ample fruit.
 
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Pascal Bauder makes an amazing living foraging in urban Los Angeles and surrounding area. He sells to restaurants, teaches classes, and has written several fantastic books. Highly recommended. Check him out for ideas, even if you aren't in SoCal. https://www.facebook.com/pascal.baudar  &   http://www.urbanoutdoorskills.com/?fbclid=IwAR0skq7T1r3rU0j0kP7suqmnc7S766Va9ioSXhKkuDtTZkXScoEXmJ1zfcg  Right now he's working on a book about foraging invasive plants and amazingly creative things to do with them.

I've foraged and sold or traded wild elderberries, which are super trendy right now. There's just a ton of things out there.

One caution. If you're foraging commercially, you'll be taking large amounts of material which can have a severe impact on the environment. If you can forage and find uses for invasives, it's a much better practice than taking struggling native plants from the wild, at least in California where I forage. It's a big deal, especially here in California where we have such a diversity of plants and so many of them are disappearing to urban development. As a lover of ordinary, lowly wild lands near my house, it pains me to be part of their destruction. I forage lots of both natives and invasives by I try to do so on a sustainable level so I can return next year.
 
steward
Posts: 4732
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I know a number of people that derive significant income from foraging for seeds of wild plants.
 
Posts: 31
Location: the mountains of western nc
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my nut processing group pays foragers for pretty much any kind of nuts. on mast years they can add up pretty quick.

i agree that there'a a danger of overharvesting some things, especially when your mindset moves from 'this is how much i need' to 'more harvesting = more money'
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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greg mosser wrote:my nut processing group pays foragers for pretty much any kind of nuts. on mast years they can add up pretty quick.




I tried searching for such a group near me, and all I got were links to nut processing machinery. Any tips on locating and connecting with groups like that?
 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I don't know your situation, but around here I think you could do pretty well with a mix of coastal foraging (seaweeds, winkles, cockles) and seasonal mushroom foraging. When I worked in a local foodie pub they had a guy who came around a couple of time a week with a tray of foraged mushrooms, and other seasonal veg - wild garlic, oxalis, berries etc...

Finding a consistent market is key for a business like this.

Winkles - 1kg being sold for £6.
Winkles typically get harvested £25kg sacks, and you can fill a few in a day.
 
greg mosser
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ellendra- unfortunately i don't. we're trying to get the the point where our model is relatively easily replicated, and we're getting there, but as far as i know no one else (aside from hammond's in the midwest who only deal with black walnuts - and was admittedly there first) has picked up the idea and run with it.
 
gardener
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Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Mushroom harvesting in my area is a big thing, and can be quite lucrative. Matsutake and chantrelles right now.
There is a fellow who with a permit harvests plants and resells them. Ferns and mosses for floral shops.
Celestial Teas started out with foraging I believe.
Getting properly permitted for public lands is relatively easy for personal use. For resale I wonder what hoops one would have to jump through.
Urban forestry is coming on strong here harvesting residential trees for their lumber, I'd call that foraging.
Pine cones, mistletoe, pinestraw, all readily available and accessible in my neck of the woods.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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greg mosser wrote:ellendra- unfortunately i don't. we're trying to get the the point where our model is relatively easily replicated, and we're getting there, but as far as i know no one else (aside from hammond's in the midwest who only deal with black walnuts - and was admittedly there first) has picked up the idea and run with it.



In that case, does your group have a website? And would they buy nuts that were shipped to them from another state?
 
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