THE OREGON STORY: HARVESTING THE WILD
Posted October 17, 2005
The latest episode in Oregon Public Broadcasting’s THE OREGON STORY, “Harvesting the Wild,” airs Tuesday October 14 at 9pm (repeats Sunday, October 19 at 11am). “Harvesting the Wild” delves into the oldest economy known to humankind – gathering wild things from the forest. This presentation explores the economics, ecology and cultural significance of harvesting from the wild.
"Harvesting the Wild” takes us into the secret world of Oregon’s forests, dripping with moss and ferns. Beneath our feet are wild berries, rare mushrooms and healing herbs. Once upon a time, humans lived in caves and gathered what they needed from the forest. Gathering was survival.
People still harvest wild things from the forest, but these days they do it for profit, selling what they gather in roadside tent cities that pop up like morels in the spring or huckleberries in the summer.
The wild products gathered by modern day harvesters are worth millions of dollars to consumers seeking romance and the finer things of life: gourmet food, flower arrangements and herbal medicine.
All these products cannot be farmed, only found.
With big money at stake, there are conflicts: turf battles, damage to the fragile forest ecosystem from fire, logging or over-harvesting, large corporations pushing out mom-and-pop harvesters and ups and downs in the market rob the taxpayers who own public lands of their rightful revenue from so-called “special forest products” or “non-timber forest products.”
Harvesters are often America’s newest citizens: Southeast Asians foraging for mushrooms or Central Americans picking brush. Former loggers, New Age entrepreneurs and back-to-the-land hippies who once fought over clear-cuts now share the forest looking for medicinal plants. And sometimes these harvesters trespass on reservation land owned by America’s oldest citizens, Native Americans, who still celebrate the wild bounty of their traditional food and medicine. “Harvesting the Wild” is a yearlong journey following the seasons, meeting the people who comb the forest for hidden treasure and discovering just how valuable wild things can be.
THE OREGON STORY series explores Oregon’s ever-changing social, cultural and economic relationships with the land. Each story is supplemented by an online site that provides additional facts, educational tools and a starting point for further discovery. Visit opb.org/programs/oregonstory/ for more information.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network of community-supported learning resources, including OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Radio International (PRI). The OPB Web site is opb.org.