Food foraging: it’s creative, educational, and as local as food can get. Ranked as the No. 1 dream job by Forbes Magazine in 2012, the role of food forager has steadily garnered attention over the last few years, increasing in popularity among hotels, restaurants, and large food-focused corporations like Whole Foods.
And though there’s no college diploma that ensures a student’s future as a food forager, here are five reasons why this intriguing position should be considered the next “it” job of 2015.
1. Food foragers establish a daily connection between businesses and the farms that provide their food
Picture this: You’re tasting your way through your town’s weekly farmer’s market, meeting local artisans and farmers who tell you about the products they’re selling — how they were made, where they were grown, and how humanely the animals were treated. This, in its most immediate sense, is the food forager’s job. Not only are foragers responsible for gathering meats, cheeses, and produce, but they must work as liaisons, maintaining relationships on behalf of their employers. This role is essential in fostering new opportunities for farmers and businesses and for generating agriculturally based economic development.
2. We’re showing a greater desire to learn what’s in our food and where it comes from
The local food movement is spreading — from rural farmer’s markets to grocery store shelves — and food foragers are leading the charge. It’s little surprise that people, fed up with food recalls, obesity, and concerns over food security, are taking a greater interest in the distance between themselves and their plates. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 44 percent of public schools throughout the country are participating in Farm to School programs, with the east and west coasts joining in at the highest rates. Farmer’s markets have also caught on, growing by 67 percent since 2008, according to the USDA. Food foragers, aware of this blossoming trend, aim to cultivate knowledgeable, empowered customers.
3. Foraging can exist no matter where you live
It doesn’t matter whether you live near the waters of Cape Cod, the rose hip petal countryside of Copenhagen, or Melbourne’s Yarra trail. Chefs, nutritionists, and restaurateurs are increasingly encouraging us to look for food in our own backyards. At Rhode Island’s Forbes Five Star Ocean House, for example, the resident food forager looks to source foods from within a 120-mile radius of the property. Whole Foods has established a forager program with the intention of showcasing locally made products drawn from the particular store’s state or region.
4. Food foraging enables you to learn more about the world, and be proud of it
When in Oahu, pop in for a bite at any of the island’s restaurants and you’re almost certain to see a note on their menu about locally grown products like Kahuku sweet corn. In New Jersey, you’re bound to catch sight of the agricultural branding slogan “Jersey Fresh” on a variety of fruits and vegetables grown in the Garden State. Food foragers around the world, working everywhere from high-end bistros to farmer’s markets, happily tout their farm-to-table ingredients as a point of pride. Promoting locally and regionally produced foods not only enables restaurants, hotels, and other businesses to serve their customers fresh food, it also allows areas to hold onto their identity and share it with others.
5. You can then teach others
Food is the great equalizer of cultures. Perhaps the most exciting part of a food forager’s job is sharing the stories and backgrounds of the foods people are eating: What to eat with that Kakadu plum chutney at Hill of Grace restaurant, where to find morel mushrooms in Oregon, how to cook with seaweed washed up on Outer Hebridean beach. There is always something new to try and something exciting to share.