How do we agree best foraging practice, and how might we benchmark and accredit it? Mark Williams explores some of the issues and possible ways forward raised by a recent research.
Jointly funded funded by The Association of Foragers and NatureScot (Scotland's public nature agency), a report entitled "Wild Food Accreditation Scheme - Scoping Report" was published in July 2022.
Written by AoF members, the report explores current opportunities and challenges around foraging for both personal and commercial use in the UK, and outlines possible ways forward for promoting and, where helpful, accrediting responsible, safe wild harvesting.
You can read the report here: Wild Food Accreditation Scheme Report_Final-2.pdf
After reviewing research and discussing current tensions and opportunities around foraging, the report identifies several key tenets that should underpin a Wild Food Accreditation Scheme:
- Voluntary: Nobody should ever need a qualification to allow them to forage for personal consumption.
- Accessible: A Wild Food Accreditation Scheme should not impose barriers between any group or individual and legally foraging for personal consumption. Rather it should actively promote best practice.
- Inclusive: Developed, administered and overseen by a coalition of interest groups that includes foragers.
- Educational: Supports and guides learning and best practice. Helpful curriculum and resources should be designed and agreed to promote best practice.
- Evidenced: Built on sound scientific and experiential evidence. As many wild harvests have no history of commercial use, expensive scientific data can be scarce; thousands of years of non-commercial use can also be a rich and dependable source.
- Focused: Safe, sensitive and sustainable foraging are at its core.
- Flexible: General 'catch-all' rules around foraging can easily be insensitive and inappropriate. In line with item 2.3 of the Association of Forager's Principles of Practice, the report recommends benchmarking and accreditation on a granular species-by-species basis will help participants to recognise the distinct sensitivities of individual species, and achieve accreditation in a portfolio of species that is most relevant and appropriate to their needs and interests.
Based on these principles, the report proposes a three-tier accreditation structure overseen by a steering group made up of interest groups including foragers, land managers, conservation organisations, food standards, and plant, fungi and seaweed specialists.
- Level 1 is proposed to support and encourage safe and responsible foraging among the general public, through a series of free online resources and species-specific tests—rather like scout badges, only in individual species. The report includes some examples of what these tests might look like.
- Level 2 would cover competence to supply or teach about wild foods for money through in-person field assessment demonstrating advanced competency in sustainable harvesting and safe use of individual species.
- Level 3 is proposed as the standard for those who assess Level 2 students, and update the Level 1 curriculum.
The intention of this report is to reach out to individuals, organisations, businesses and landowners with an interest in wild food and foraging to find common ground in order promote the benefits of foraging while minimising any risks or negative impacts, by identifying, benchmarking and, accrediting best practice.
The AoF welcomes any feedback, thoughts, comment and applications to stand on the steering group from anyone who has read the report and has an interest in the ideas and concepts it raises. In particular, insights from the following groups would be most welcome:
- Active foragers
- Foraging groups
- Foraging educators
- Wild food suppliers
- Chefs using wild foods
- Food and Drink Producers using wild harvests
- Conservation organisations
- Forest School leaders
- Botanical, Mycological and Marine Algae focussed organisations
- Land owners/managers
- Food Standards organisations
- You do not need to be a member of the AoF to get involved
- While this project is UK focussed, we’d love to hear about similar projects from around the world, and especially the benefits and challenges that have arisen around them.
Please email email@example.com if you'd like to contribute.
You can read about the context of the report and its intentions by one of its authors here: https://gallowaywildfoods.com/accrediting-foraging-and-wild-food-in-the-uk/
Image ©Mark Williams GallowayWildFoods.com