How to Sell Wild Foods to Restaurants
The Work at Home Wife
March 10th, 2015
Today we are talking to Alan Muskat. Alan is the owner No Taste Like Home and built a business around selling foraged wild foods to local restaurants.
Please tell us a little about your background and what inspired your business idea.
For fifteen years, I sold several hundred pounds of wild foods a year to about thirty restaurants in my area. I recognized that wild food is the most local, sustainable, and healthiest food around, and yet practically no one was using it. Most of us wouldn’t conceive of “eating outside the box.”
What was your first step in getting started?
I started to forage as a way to feed myself and my family. I started by reading books, which is the worst way. I have been teaching foraging for twenty years now, and I say that “the only field guide worth having has two legs.” It means that foraging, like any skill, takes practice and, more importantly, guidance. The best way to learn is from someone who has done it for years. There are clubs and meet-up groups in most areas.
Are any special licenses or permits required?
Each state has different regulations regarding the sale of wild foods. Some states have no requirements. In others, it is completely illegal. In South Carolina, for example, in order to sell wild mushrooms, you have to take a weekend course. In North Carolina, the seller is supposed to provide a statement of their qualifications to the buyer along with a list of exactly what they’ve sold.
What has been your biggest surprise along the way?
My biggest surprise in selling wild food has been how easy it is. Overall, my experience is that one can earn $30/hr on average, on your own time, with no boss telling you what to do. It’s far less dangerous than driving, but it’s not an entirely “DIY” proposition: it’s best to learn from and work with others.
If there is one thing you could go back and do what would it be?
If I could go back and do it differently, I would team up with other foragers and “spread the odds” so we could have a steadier supply and we wouldn’t all have to be running separate businesses, each doing our own sales, accounting, etc.
Where do you recommend others getting started in this industry turn for help?
Although they may not advertize, chances are that there’s a small-scale, commercial forager in or near most cities. The way to find them is to ask the most expensive restaurants in your area if anyone local is supplying them. Offer to apprentice with that person.
What’s your business vision for the future? Where do you see your business in five or ten years down the road?
I have already shifted into teaching others. I would like to see cooperatives across the country like I describe in the second half of my article, “The Key to Ending Hunger.” I would like to shift further to writing for a living and teaching foraging as a spiritual path.