Along with most of the world, i’ve been searching around for ways to continue my work in the new socially distanced world. I believe that foraging, even during lockdown, can be extremely helpful in keeping us physically and mentally well, and i’m keen to help people access this as part of my contribution to supporting people through the crisis and building a better future beyond the immediate crisis.
Social distancing brings challenges for everyone. The main challenges for a full time foraging teacher are that foraging, learning to forage, and teaching foraging require physical senses such as detailed observation, nuances of smell, taste, and even sounds, all of which are best shared in person and can be tricky to convey through digital platforms.
Having said that, for the last ten years I have been sharing my passion and knowledge through my website and social media feeds and this seems to have been useful to people. I answer dozens of foraging related questions every day through these platforms, so there is clearly demand for direct-but-distant advice and support.
So I am proposing to extend what I am already doing into a more structured wild food distance mentoring service. This will allow me to help you connect with the wild foods that are most accessible and meaningful to your level of experience, geographic location, aspirations and circumstances.
Who Is the Wild Food Mentor?
The Wild Food Mentor is me, Mark Williams. Hi!
I have been studying wild food for 35 years and teaching about it for the last 30 years. About 10 years ago I started this website, purely as a way to share my passion and experience. It grew and grew, and while I have always maintained it as a free and advert-free resource, the audience it generates has allowed me to work full time as a foraging teacher and wild food consultant for the past 8 years. Down the years I have taught many thousands of people how to connect with plants, fungi and seaweed.
You can read more about me here, and, I hope, get to know even more of what i’m about by browsing through this website and my social media posts.
I am a founder member of The Association of Foragers.
Given the huge response I have already had to this scheme, I have invited other members of the association who teach about foraging to offer mentoring too. Some are organising this through their own channels, but i’m also “match-making” mentors with mentees. So if you are happy for me to pair you with another mentor, please let me know if you are OK with this when you apply and I will try to hook you up with the right mentor for your particular needs and interests. (Other mentors might offer a slightly different “package” and it would be up to you sort out with them how your mentoring was delivered/paid for).
What is Wild Food Mentor for?
My motivations for offering Wild Food Mentoring are, in approximate order of importance to me:
- To help people to connect with wild foods and the benefits they bring in terms of physical health through biodiverse eating
- To support people’s mental health through the deep nature connection and focussed practice that foraging brings, especially in the Covid 19 and post-Covid 19 world.
- To help reduce the environmental impact of food choices
- To help reduce people’s food bills in the post-covid world
- To promote safe, sustainable and resilient foraging practices and help restore humans as responsible keystone species
- To promote an active, vibrant, sustainable wild food culture
- To meet my own need to feel useful to society through teaching what I know best
- To allow me to connect directly with learners, and feel connected to, and invested in, their learning journey
- To explore new ways of teaching about foraging and wild food
- To explore what value people place on wild food mentoring, to see whether it might be a meaningful income stream for me for the future
Who is Wild Food Mentor for?
Wild Food Mentor is for anyone who is interested in, and excited by, increasing their knowledge and use of wild plants, fungi and seaweed as food. This could be anyone from total novices to experienced foragers looking to extend the breadth and depth of their knowledge. It can be for individuals, community groups or businesses. I am used to teaching every experience level, from complete novices to established foraging teachers.
The whole point of a mentoring approach is that I can fully adapt to anyones needs, interests and knowledge levels. Initially I expect this to focus on things that can be easily foraged within covid 19 lockdown restrictions – so either in gardens, parks, and suburban/urban green spaces. When restrictions are lifted or altered, we will be able to adapt to the new circumstances. I’m looking for a wide range of starting points among the people I mentor, so you can’t know too little or too much to apply!
Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of the sort of individuals and groups that I think might benefit. Please note that I am totally up for mentoring groups, but this must go through a single point of contact (ie. 1 person with one email address, who can send questions/queries, then disemminate responses among their group):
- Foraging novices seeking to safely and confidently incorporate wild food into their diet
- More experienced foragers looking to extend their knowledge
- Parents looking increase their own confidence and ground their children in foraging knowledge
- Community groups
- Households and friends groups
- Cooks/chefs/brewers/distillers looking to incorporate more wild food into their offerings. Please note that I generally expect payment for my business consultation and product development work, but these are challenging times, and i’m up for exploring all possibilities.
- Businesses/Experienced foragers looking to explore how to responsibly and sustainably teach about, or supply wild food (I recently ran a free year long training course for prospective wild food-based businesses)
- Gardeners looking to get more out of their garden, and to recognise food where they once saw weeds
- Those working with permaculture principles, looking to extend their repertoire
What Sort of Things Can the Wild Food Mentor Help With?
While everyone develops their own focus and interests within the wide world of foraging, I hope most people will be interested in learning about a wide range of things. The sorts of themes we can explore include:
- Urban foraging
- Garden gforaging
- Particular ID challenges you have been facing
- Wild resource surveys of your area
- Identification skills – often this may be just as much as confirming your own identification, giving you the confidence to harvest and use a new species.
- Preserving tips – including dehydration, fermentation, pickling, syrup/cordial making
- Creative recipes and cooking tips
- General coaching on how, where and when to find good things in the wild
- Nutritional benefits of wild harvests
- Medicinal uses – in which I have good grounding in traditional use and the health benefits of specific wild species and wild eating in general, though you should note that I am not a medical herbalist
- The wild cocktail cabinet – making delicious drinks from wild plants
- Wild food business mentoring
- The wider politics of foraging
- Getting to know important poisonous species – set your mind at rest!
- Anything you’d like to know about foraging and wild food!
The benefit of the mentoring approach is that we can focus on your specific needs within these areas.
Where is Wild Food Mentor For?
I have lived and foraged in SW Scotland all of my life, which means that the flora, fungi and seaweeds I know most about are in that area – primarily North European temperate maritime species. This means I have good knowledge of most things you would encounter throughout the UK and much of Northern Europe and temperate North America.
I am anticipating most applicants to be UK based, but happy to assess/advise how useful I might be to applicants from further afield.
Foraging works well in urban as well as rural settings.
How is Wild Food Mentor delivered?
- An initial face-to-face Skype (or similar) meeting to get to know one another (some people with very specific questions have been requesting single sessions to tackle a particular challenge)
- A regular 30-40 minute face-to-face Zoom video call (or similar, including telephone if you prefer), meeting where you get my undivided attention to focus on the things you have been puzzling over that week, and for me to guide your explorations for the next week. Both parties can have examples of plants etc to hand for us to discuss.
- I can be flexible on how regular these sessions are, but most people are settling into a fortnightly rhythm, that allows them to “collect” questions, and for plants to grow/develop new ID features between sessions.
- A follow-up email after our 1 to 1 session, with links, further reading, photos etc based on what came up in our talk
- A direct one-to-one communication via WhatsApp and/or email to your Wild Food Mentor who will answer your questions, help with ID, photographs, cookery advice etc.
- Those that give their consent are added to a wider WhatsApp group with others on the Wild Food Mentor Scheme, creating a vibrant and valuable learning community.
- Once live physical events resume, Wild Food Mentor clients will be offered priority booking on events most suitable to their needs/interests/knowledge levels (events usually sell out very quickly, and I anticipate high demand in the post-covid world).
So, based on this approach, across all the support platforms, I expect most people that I mentor will get approximately 1.25 hours of 1 to 1 time (I think of this as a “mentoring unit”) and most people are settling into a fortnightly pattern for this, though i’m happy to be flexible.
How Long Does Wild Food Mentoring Last?
I propose to offer this service for a minimum of the duration of covid 19 lockdown protocols then re-assess once we start to emerge into the new world beyond.
You can start and stop the service as you wish – some people have booked single sessions to tackle specific topics/ID challenges.
As with many things around the pandemic, there are a lot of unknowns, and much will depend on how the scheme develops in terms of uptake, demands on my time, income etc.
If things go well I would hope to continue mentoring those who need it for as long as I can be useful, subject to monthly review.
What does Wild Food Mentor cost?
I am offering Wild Food Mentoring on a pay-as-you-feel basis, including for free.
You will have read above that, while finding a new income stream is one of my motivating factors, that is less important than a lot of other reasons. So I am very happy to offer this service free of charge to those that can’t afford to pay. I will evaluate applications for mentoring according to your need, circumstances and ability to make the most of what i’m offering – both for yourself, and how you pass your knowledge on.
Please remember though, that I can only mentor a finite number at any one time, and this will diminish if I need to look for other ways to earn a living. So if you can afford to pay something, that will allow me to commit more time to mentoring. It will also allow me to offer the service to those that really can’t afford it. It will also make it easier for me to extend the scheme into the future.
If you currently have a Galloway Wild Foods gift voucher, or voucher for a place on a Covid-postponed event, you can offer to pay using this (I can adjust the value of your existing voucher by the amount that you offer to pay).
So to clarify:
What I am offering:
As described above, across all the support platforms (face-to-face, tailored messages, emails etc, plus a small proportion of shared communications), 1 “mentoring unit” equates to about 1.25 hours of my time.
Most of my mentees to date have reported significant saving on their weekly food bills!
What you can offer me, per mentoring unit (I offer these as guidelines only):
- I’m completely skint right now = Free
- I want to see if this works for me initially = Free
- I’m representing an unfunded community group or charity and will be disseminating what I learn widely through them = Free
- Money is tight right now = £10/unit
- Money is OK at the moment = £25/unit
- Money is good at the moment = £50/unit (This is about what I charge per hour for private non-digital (ie. in-person) tuition in normal times)
- Money is good at the moment and i’d like to subsidise others to receive mentoring too = £50+
- I’m totally loaded and believe in the remarkable power of wild food to be a pivotal force for good for individuals, communities and our broken food system, especially in the post-covid world = Do drop me an email!!
I am also open to offers of payment-in-kind. There isn’t a huge amount that I need in life, but do feel free to offer things from your skill-set. Here are a couple of ideas…
- Delicious, exciting wild flavours and concoctions you’ve made (i’m easily won over by booze!)
- Insightful, well written, original blogs/essays on any aspect of wild food/foraging that would fit the theme and quality of this website (pitch me an idea)
If your application is successful, I would expect you to show clear commitment to your learning journey by participating regularly with interactive sessions and investing your own time in self-directed learning.
How Do I Apply for Wild Food Mentoring?
To apply for Wild Food Mentoring please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Title your email “Wild Food Mentoring Application” and include all the following information (all this information will be confidential and kept in line with my general terms and conditions).
For clarity, and so I don’t need to chase you for more information, please cut and paste the following bullet points into your email, following each by your response.
- Geographic location (not your full address):
- Up to 100 words describing your level of foraging experience:
- Up to 100 words describing what you would hope to get out of the scheme personally:
- Up to 100 words describing what benefits you hope to be able to pass to others from what you learn through the scheme:
- If you are representing a charity, group or business, please give details:
- What books/resources do you currently own/use to teach yourself about wild foods?:
- What you would be able/willing to pay per mentoring unit, as outlined above (you can choose from the options i’ve outlined, or suggest what you are comfortable with):
- Can you use Zoom? (Zoom works on smartphones, laptops and tablets and you don’t need to sign up to anything to use it – I just send you a link to our meeting) Y/N
- Are you happy to use WhatsApp for direct mentoring communications? (WhatsApp is free and easy to use) Y/N – add your mobile number if you are OK with this
- Are you happy to be added to a WhatsApp group where other mentees and your mentor share foraging information/tips/chat? (You can mute or leave this group at any time) Y/N
- Specific questions you have about the Wild Food Mentor Scheme:
- I am happy to be put in touch with another member of The Association of Foragers who is up for mentoring along similar lines, if Mark’s waiting list is too long: Y/N
If you clearly provide all of the information above it helps me greatly, and will allow me to offer you a slot as soon as one becomes available. If I have to chase you for more information it will delay your enrolment!
Please don’t send me garbled applications that don’t include all the information i’ve asked for, or vague notes of interest on social media. These just make more admin work for me, and will slow down the process of getting you started!
I aim to evaluate and reply by email to complete applications within 1 week of receiving the above information. I’ll try to give you a first appointment, or give you an idea of waiting times, or put you in touch with another potential mentor within 2 weeks.