Collecting

Gum arabic

Some resources are or must be foraged, hunted, fished, mined, or otherwise gathered.

For example, when my father was a young boy, he and his mother would go out into the woods just outside of Veneta, Oregon, and collect ferns to sell to florists’ shops.    Back then, it was a legitimate way to earn money to help support the family.

Today, this kind of cottage industry is nearly unheard-of.  There are plenty of books on the subject of foraging wild plants for personal use, but you would be hard-pressed to find material on the subject of collecting of any sort as a commercial endeavor.  There are plenty of good reasons for this, but in my opinion if you are considering taking up collecting as an enterprise, these three considerations are of prime importance:

  • Can the resource be farmed or cultivated?  If so, it’s probably better to approach it that way.  After all, what’s more efficient: searching out wild honey bee nests, or building your own bee farm?
  • Can it be collected sustainably? Humans are notoriously bad at managing this, so this question needs to be answered in a seriously educated way for every single resource you plan to collect.
  • Do you have permission to collect the resource?  Unclaimed land or water is pretty rare these days, so working with the owner/stewards of the area where the resource is found is essential — again, education is key.

Following are some resources to help you get started in learning about collecting as a viable cottage industry.

Food

  • Plant Sourced

There are many good books on the subject of foraging for plants — mostly for food, and mostly for personal use.  There’s a lot to be learned from such books, especially because they give you an idea of what plants can and can’t be cultivated, and they provide information on the ecological context, which helps you to forage sustainably.  The most important thing to note is that the best books are regional, meaning that they focus on a specific geographic area.  In addition to book-learning, I highly recommend finding a class or mentor that can take you out and actually help you find the plants in real life.  It is very easy to misidentify many plants simply based on pictures or descriptions, so there is really no substitute for in-the-field learning.

Here’s a great example of a series of foraging books by region, this one is published by Timber Press.

Midwest Foraging: 115 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Burdock to Wild Peach (Regional Foraging Series) (paid link)

Mountain States Foraging: 115 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Alpine Sorrel to Wild Hops (Regional Foraging Series) (paid link)

Southeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Angelica to Wild Plums (Regional Foraging Series) (paid link)

Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries (Regional Foraging Series) (paid link)

Southwest Foraging: 117 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Barrel Cactus to Wild Oregano (Regional Foraging Series) (paid link)

California Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Evergreen Huckleberries to Wild Ginger (Regional Foraging Series) (paid link)

Pacific Northwest Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Alaska Blueberries to Wild Hazelnuts (Regional Foraging Series) (paid link)

Mushrooms are a popular item for foraging.


(paid link)


(paid link)

  • Animal Sourced

In the United States, it is generally illegal to hunt truly wild animals in order to sell the meat.  Truly wild animals are those that are not domesticated, and that live on public lands.  An individual can often get a permit to hunt animals for personal use (the laws and regulations regarding hunting permits vary by state and locality), but are not allowed to sell the meat.

When you see the meat of non-domesticated animals (such as deer, elk, moose, and so on) for sale in stores or restaurants, these animals have come from ranches, not from the wild.  The subject of ranching is covered in the “Cultivation” section.

Fishing is a different story.  A great deal of the fish for sale commercially has been harvested from the ocean, as opposed to farmed.  However, the fishing industry is highly regulated — largely in an effort to protect fish populations that have been over exploited in the past.  If you are interested in commercial fishing, it will be important to make a careful study of the rules, regulations, and best practices for your state and geographic area.  For example, in Oregon, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife issues commercial licenses and is a good source of information regarding best practices, as well as a list of the species that can be commercially harvested.  In addition, commercial ocean fishing requires a lot of knowledge about a variety of subjects including: boats, navigation, weather, and others.  Commercial fishing is renowned as a very dangerous trade, and most fisherman learn the trade from other experienced fishermen, not by strictly reading books (though a good book on the subject certainly can’t hurt).

The world of hunting and fishing is one with which I’m mostly unfamiliar, and I found this two-volume set of books to start the process of learning about hunting for personal use.

The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 1: Big Game (paid link)

The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 2: Small Game and Fowl (paid link)

  • Mineral Sourced

See the entry below, under Material (Mineral Sourced)

Material

    • Plant Sourced
    • Animal Sourced
    • Mineral Sourced

There are many, many books available on the topic of identifying and collecting rocks, minerals, and gemstones. The ones that address collecting for commercial purposes concentrate almost exclusively on selling them as collectors’ items or for use as gems, and not for other practical uses.  This is especially true for minerals that are important as food, or as micronutrients.  Of course, the vast majority of mining is far from being a cottage industry these days, but that wasn’t always the case.  Even today, in some places around the world, important minerals are still mined or collected and sold by individuals.

If you’re interested in collecting rocks and minerals as display specimens or gems, following are a couple (out of the many) selections to get you started.


(paid link)


(paid link)

This is a book written for the lay person as an introduction to the principles of how mining generally works.


(paid link)

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