Into the Wild: The Perils of Foraged Food

Here’s an interesting article in the San Francisco Weekly about Iso Rabin’s, and his new business of creating Community Supported Forage boxes for customers.

…finding an eager and untapped market for his products is the easy part. His is a supply-side problem. In this day and age, hunting and gathering — humans’ sole means of feeding ourselves for most of our species’ history — is a proposition fraught with ethical, logistical, and legal problems. In the U.S., a gamut of regulations governing food safety and environmental conservation would long ago have rendered any surviving forager societies extinct. And there’s no shortage of people who think Rabins’ effort to buck the trend of modern agricultural and industrial food production is misguided at best — and dangerous at worst.

The article then proceeds to detail these problems; everything from licensing and governmental regulations, to environmental concerns, to even the issue of finding vegetation not riddled with illness-causing bacteria or mushrooms that could kill people within minutes.

Growing up in a part of the country where hunting for wild foods was a celebrated skill, the idea of foraging for one’s paycheck and providing such food to the masses seems romantic to me. But the article paints a picture that makes Rabin’s endeavor seem at best, impractical.

I can’t help but keep going back to the hunting comparison, because the two have the basic premise of an individual relying on the uncivilized chaos of nature to draw nutrition. Each state pays at least a little bit of attention to the world of the hunter, and laws detailing exactly what a hunter can or cannot do are everywhere.

Now the Ted Nugents of the world aside, most believe this to be a good thing. Safety is a concern, as well as the environment. Most do not want to hunt any animal to extinction.

Such concerns should be addressed in the foraging/gathering world. The only reason that I can see that it hasn’t is that there are a far fewer amount of foragers out there than there are hunters.

But what I really took away from this article is that, at least in the United States, it seems as if that those like Iso Rabin make the rest of us look at them like they’re a tad…off. Foraging is a novelty, so much so that it gets an article in a local alt-weekly. We’re clearly past the tipping point when it comes to relying on institutions for our food.