Is foraging farming?
When you hear foraging, what do you see? Often folks see people wandering through fields and woods, picking plants and berries and roots for food or medicine. It’s the picture of nature providing sustenance and nourishment, right? Foraging is deeply rooted in human history, representing our ancestors’ earliest means of sustenance. It involves searching for wild plants, fruits, nuts, and even hunting animals as a way to secure food. In this sense, foraging can be seen as an ancient form of subsistence farming, where humans cultivated a direct relationship with nature to obtain their essentials.
Farming evokes more of a picutre of neat rows of intentionally cultivated crops or managed animals that belong to a person. It’s a much more “man made” and managed situation and picture, right? Modern farming has little to do with wild plants or animals and often sees nature as something to be attacked, pushed back, controlled for the good of human kind.
At first look those pictures are quite different, eh?
In contemporary society, the boundaries between foraging and farming are blurring as we explore sustainable food practices. We’re increasingly realizing that cooperating with nature benefits us. To view nature’s garden, which we forage from, and our garden as incompatable is to limit the health of the whole system.
Foraging is experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to its alignment with local, organic, and wild food movements. People are rediscovering the nutritional value and unique flavors of foraged foods, connecting them with a deep appreciation for the environment. In fact, we’re currently leading a book reading club exploring edible weeds and the medicinal benefits of a variety of cultivated and wild herbs. (Catch the recordings inside the Tribe+ membership!)
Additionally, some forms of modern agriculture exhibit aspects of both foraging and farming. Permaculture, for example, integrates elements of both practices by designing self-sustaining ecosystems that mimic natural patterns. This approach highlights the interconnectedness between humans and the environment, drawing inspiration from traditional foraging while embracing the principles of farming.
We’ve found (and teach) that the more we can mimic nature, the easier our job as farmers is. For example, when we graze our cows and pigs, they harvest and grow at the same time, saving us time, fuel, materials, and feed storage overhead. Additionally, if the crops we plant for them don’t do well due to weather conditions and weeds spring up, we don’t stress out because the animals are happy to forage the weeds. In fact, we’ve been know to forage the weeds from the animal paddocks! We’ve never had a fuel crisis because mostly the animals go to the feed rather than us harvesting, hauling, and then hauling it again. As a bonus, nature’s plants are far more nutrient dense and hardy than what we cultivate so that intentionally building foraging into our farming system benefits our animals and us tremendously.
The overlap between foraging and farming in a regenerative, permaculture, sustainable homestead farm system definitely complicates the question.
Life lesson: respect
Perhaps this person has encountered rude foragers before. One of the life lessons from foraging is respect. As a forager, you learn to respect the seasons, the parts of the plant that are useful at all or at given times, and sometimes even the plant itself (as with thistle!). You also respect the nature you share nature’s garden with, like bears in a wild huckleberry patch, or the bees who need the flowers and may be pollinating your vegetable plants.
Sometimes people don’t realize or choose to ignore the rule of More Life to All and take from others or take more than their share. On the other hand, farming can do that too, as liquid manure sears passers by noses and eyes, or the need for a weedless garden causes the demise of untold soil life.
Here are a few more life lessons from foraging and regenerative farming:
Life Lessons from Weeds
- It’s all about the soil
- It isn’t the weed seed, but the conditions that allow the seed to grow and proliferate
- If you don’t like what you see, don’t kill the weed: change the soil (this goes for your health and life as well as your ground)
- Everyone matters and has a purpose.
- Always be growing and changing. The alternative is dying.
- No matter what, there’s always a way to thrive
- LISTEN: nourishment comes from being aware and listening and being willing to receive
- No matter what anyone says, YOU ARE IMPORTANT
- Even when things don’t go right or the way you thought they should, they can still be great.
- Cooperating with nature brings sustainable, regenerative health
The question remains:
We believe, YES! Nature’s garden and our garden and farm go hand in glove. There is abundance in both places and we heartily appreciate what we harvest from nature, even intentionally cultivating places for nature to grow her goodness.
But, if you disagree, as the person who got me thinking did, that’s ok. The good news is that we’ll all eat just fine either way.