Selling Wild Foods

By Eric Hammer

Any boy scout knows that mother nature has a bounty to offer for gatherers – wild foods abound throughout forests and national parks and if you know what you’re doing (so you avoid the poisonous foods), then you can easily make yourself a feast every single day and night from nothing but the wild foods that can be found in forests.

But what about selling wild foods? While it might go against some people’s sense of fairness that you gathered food for free and then sold it for a profit, many people do just that. These are people who are comfortable foraging for food in a forest, collecting wild root vegetables and berries, gathering them up and selling them on the Internet to people who want really and truthfully naturally grown food.

The business is still in its infancy and there is naturally a limit to the number of people who can make money doing it (after all, there’s only so much food that grows wild that can be harvested). Plus, it’s unclear what the law says about it. However, if you want to get into the business of selling wild foods, then read on.

How Much Can You Make?

Because this business is a relatively new one, it’s hard to come up with firm numbers for the amounts you can earn. However, one person, profiled by Reason Magazine did report selling boxes of assorted wild foods for between $40-$80 with subscriptions from a number of customers for a box every single month. Not bad for food she didn’t have to work to grow – all she had to do was gather it.

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Gathering and selling wild foods is definitely not for everyone. It’s a job that requires a keen eye and as previously noted, there may be some legal issues involved in doing it (more on this in a moment). However, if you do want to get into this business, it pays to start up a website and offer to ship nationally since you’re not likely to find enough business locally for your gatherings each month.

If you do set up such a web site, you can also always expand it to offer natural foods and organically grown commercial foods in addition to the wild foods that you gather on your own.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements to get into the business of selling wild foods. However, there may be some legal issues to consider. State laws vary, but many states will not allow you to sell foods gathered in the wild unless you have them inspected by a third party expert to make sure they are truly safe to eat. This is especially true of mushrooms, some of which can have psychotropic effects on the brain.

In addition to this, there is the question of ownership. If you gather wild foods in state or federal parks or nature reserves for yourself, generally you should be fine. However, if you are harvesting large amounts of food and coming back regularly, you may have problems with the park rangers who can (rightfully claim) that you are taking government property and may impose fines. Therefore, it pays to sort this out before you begin to get into this business.

First Steps

Start by learning what kinds of wild foods are available in your area. Take books out of the library to learn about the foods and be careful to make sure you can identify foods exactly. Different wild foods may look similar, but while one may be perfectly fine to eat, another may be poisonous, so you need to be sure.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about selling wild foods:

Minnesota Department of Health: Harvesting and Selling Wild Mushrooms in Minnesota -- While this is just one state’s rules regarding gathering and selling wild mushrooms, the advice here should prove useful to anyone interested in gathering and selling wild foods. In essence, they require that the mushrooms be identified by a third party expert on mushrooms before they are sold so that you do not accidentally sell poisonous mushrooms to the public at large.

Wild Foods Adventurer Newsletter – An excellent newsletter on gathering wild foods. While not specifically about selling them, this newsletter is still quite useful for the purpose of learning more about gathering them.

Reason Magazine: Selling Free Food – An interesting article which details some information about how the wild foods movement has grown.

Hunter Gatherer Cook: Adventures in Wild Food – A blog on gathering and hunting for wild food. Again, not necessarily about selling it, but quite useful in and of itself.

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