Recreational Foraging

Experiential outings to identify and collect food in wild/open areas can serve as conduits for transformative understandings of a deeper ecological awareness. Non-agricultural lands or those ‘wild’ spaces on the periphery of cultivated spaces can serve as places of sustenance and learning resources. Recreational foraging can serve as a way of conserving plant and other environmental knowledge, supporting community health from an ecopsychology and biophysiological perspective and protecting from ‘build-out’ via bio-cultural corridors in the post-industrial and/or periurban contexts.

Recreational foraging is viewed ‘as a right, as a part of cultural heritage and as a healthy recreational activity’ (Hall, 2013a, p. 229). Recreational foraging could be seen as a form of slow tourism and Hayes-Conroy (2010, p. 734) notes that slow travellers ‘perform a mobile-existential praxis in which new possibilities for experiencing the relations between the self and the world unfold’. Interestingly, Howard et al. (2012) suggest that human foraging serves cognitive adaptations. Children are strongly inclined to forage for natural things, even when adults are not present, and there is an ‘ontogenetic reliance on foraging in childhood to develop individual competence in assessing landscapes’ (Chipeniuk, 1998). Foraging, then, can be understood as a deeply transformative and developmental process. Buhner (2004, p. 242) discusses how learning to deeply relate to plants is a mode of cognition that involves a ‘continual perception of meaning’ and stimulates ‘internal ecological reclamation’. He discusses the medicinal, nutritional and transformational role of plants for humans and highlights that of the estimated 400,000 species of plants on earth only a fraction have been identified by Western science. He professes that by learning an alternate heart-centred mode of perception, people can make deeper connections with plants and the earth as a whole.

In a more applied context, Buhner (2004) suggests that a knowledge of foods and food preference determines the actual act of foraging or rather what species are being sought. Hall (2013b) also links the learning or information sharing that goes on between foragers and public observers. Hall (2013a, p. 228) notes several respondents ‘started foraging after they themselves had stopped other people and realised what was available that they remembered from their younger days and/or what they had seen or heard in the media’.

Mindful foraging can also serve to encourage lessons on limits, as over-foraging can negatively impact the health of both flora and fauna species. The sustainability of foraging may be a learning opportunity for those who are receiving guidance and information from credible sources - for example, family from previous generations (often in indigenous cases, but not always), from current modern media, such as television shows, and through alternate knowledge networks.

There is a possibility for recreational foraging to support cultural heritage and connection to multi-functional foodscapes, while at the same time not serving as a source of unsustainable overharvesting of wild species. Recreational foraging tours are assisting to educate peri-urban communities about both alternate ways of knowing and landscapes and sustainable food consumption. Wild food species and spaces can serve as alternate ways of knowing and can increase discourse in sustainable economies and post-industrial societies. This nature-based and foodscape experience can also serve to bring forth a deeper understanding regarding wild foods and their relationships with commercial food products. Indeed, it is an interesting opportunity to examine the interrelationship between food, climate change and tourism (Friese et al., 2011).

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