You may think of a "forager" as a guy in a plaid shirt, with a scruffy beard, wearing knee-high rubber boots and digging into the earth for pea shoots, ramps, or exotic mushrooms.
Those people exist! But a professional forager is someone who is crucial to the construction of regional food systems. And he or she probably does visit farms and forests sometimes, but more likely is leading a fairly urban existence.
Cities were historically a nexus of regional food networks, but that system was disrupted by modernization, which stipulated that it made more economic sense to get ingredients from the cheapest place possible. Hence, apples from Chile at your Brooklyn supermarket -- despite the fact that they are grown 400 miles away.
Thanks to the locavore movement of the last few decades, we're seeing a return to regional food sourcing. But it's not happening on its own. Urban planners, farmers, and enterprises have had to work together to make it happen.
Elly Truesdell is the Northeast regional forager for Whole Foods, and we reached out to her for the scoop on what it's like to build relationships, from the ground up, to create a food market that supports area farms and purveyors.
Collectively: What is it like being a regional forager?
Elly Truesdell: There's no typical day, which is nice. I work with all product teams, across categories -- produce farms, dairies, greeneries, also chocolate producers, coffee roasters, value added consumer products. I'm not an expert on any one particular product line or category, and I'm the internal advocate for these smaller growing brands, as well as a resource to them. I set up expectations for how we can work with them at retail, what they need to be prepared for. MORE