Edible wild product picking and hunting are the oldest methods of human food provisioning. However, over the centuries domesticated agriculture has moved towards ever greater efficiency and stability, which has allowed farming to supplant foraging and has framed wild product gathering as archaic, inefficient and incapable of supplying a sufficient amount of food to feed a growing global population. Typically in academic literature, the reliance on wild products is associated with the Global South, and more precisely, with the livelihoods of communities living in rural territories that maintain a lifestyle that ties them to nature. In contrast, economically prosperous European countries are not seen as places where foraging could be anything more than a recreational activity of a few enthusiasts.
My research addresses the role that wild products have in Northern Europe (with a particular focus on the Baltic States) taking a holistic view of the sector by connecting cultural and economic aspects of foraging and micro and macro levels of wild product trade. The research project examines innovations that enable integration of culturally driven NTFP (such as mushrooms, wild berries, saps) gathering practices into high value-added niche markets, thus fostering sustainable use of natural resources, sustainable rural development, and the emergence of new competitive enterprises.
Mikelis Grivins, dr.soc., is a post-doctoral researcher at Baltic Studies Centre in Latvia. Grivins has been involved in studying foraging, agro-food systems and sustainability transition in Central and Eastern Europe. His current research addresses the role of wild product gathering and untapped potential of non-timber forest products in the European countryside. Grivins is the chair of Latvian Sociological Association and the convenor of pan-European research study group “Alternative food supply networks in Central and Eastern Europe”.