recently asked me to write a blog about the rules around foraging in public
places. What a great idea! Since most of
my foraging happens in Polk County, WI, that’s where my focus will be for this
When I think
about “Public Land”, I think of 4 categories: Federal, State, County, and
Municipal. Each category has slightly different
rules about foraging, so let’s break it down.
In Polk County,
we have the National Park Service area along the St Croix River, and various
tracts of US Fish and Wildlife areas south of Highway 8. Perhaps there are other Federal Lands too,
these are the ones I’m aware of.
Here is a link that outlines specific rules about activities on National Park Service land along the River, including foraging: “Visitors are allowed to harvest and eat berries and mushrooms in the Park, but collecting freshwater mussels, mussel shells or wildflowers is prohibited.”
In a State park, Forest, Natural Area or Trail in Wisconsin we can pick edible fruits, edible nuts, wild mushrooms, wild asparagus and watercress for personal consumption. I will add that we can pick edible invasive plants as well – things like garlic mustard, feral parsnip, and hybrid cattail. This link has a list of state lands in Polk County.
Polk County Parks, Trails and Forests have pretty much the same foraging rules as State Lands, above. There are presently no policies written down, but the kind county forester that I spoke with said that respectful harvesting of wild edibles for personal consumption would be considered legal.
This link has a list of Polk County parks and trails. You’ll notice some of these are also in the State Land list – that’s because some parks and trails are jointly owned/managed by DNR and the county.
I debated about calling up all of the Polk County villages and cities to see what they had to say………but I got lazy and didn’t, lol! My advice here is to call your local village/city office and ask if it’s alright to pick mushrooms and wild edible plants from the parks in town, and then also ask if herbicides/pesticides are used in any of the parks as well. I imagine each village or city will have different rules.
So there you have it. Go forth and forage, my friends.
Herbcraft This is the work of Jim McDonald, a Michigan Herbalist. I love the humor and human-ness he brings to his excellent writing about all things herb-y.
Learning Herbs Rosalee de la Forêt writes prolifically about Food as Medicine, and publishes great recipes.
Eat the Weeds Green Dean lives in Florida, and surprisingly a LOT of the plants he writes about are here in Wisconsin, too.
Learn Your Land Adam Haritan lives in Western Pennsylvania, another area that has many plants that are also found in Wisconsin. He produces great videos with tons of super good information about wild edibles and mushrooms. I had a great opportunity to meet him this summer when he was traveling in Wisconsin, and I can say that he is every bit as animated and kind in person as he is in his videos.
Forager’s Harvest Sam Thayer is a Wisconsin native who is an avid Forager and Teacher. He and his wife Melissa have a store in Bruce, Wisconsin, right on Highway 8. They hold classes there and other places as well.
Forager Chef Alan Bergo is a Minneapolis based chef who specializes in using wild foods in his menu. I had to fun opportunity to take a class with him this fall, he is thoroughly entertaining and knowledgeable.
Edible Wild Food Karen Stephenson lives in Canada and writes a great blog with tons of plant information and recipes.
Grow Forage Cook Ferment Colleen Codekas lives in Southern Oregon and has a beautiful website packed with loads of rich information about living close to the land.
Play with plant fibers I’ve harvested to make jewelry cordage and other creative stuff.
Read novels with themes around botany, foraging or herbalism.
Plan next years’ Wild Food and Folk Medicine classes.
Go snowshoeing and enjoy the quiet woods.
Watch birds at my backyard feeder, which will contain some foraged seeds (yellow dock, plantain and amaranth) along with the ones I purchase at the store.
Forage! Even in a Wisconsin Winter, I can go pick some fresh pine needles for tea, or dig in the snow around those pine trees to find Wintergreen leaves and berries. I can harvest some Chaga mushrooms from Birch trees. I may be able to pick up some Black Walnuts that the squirrels left behind. I love the seasons in Wisconsin, and even though winter seems to take up most of the year, I love knowing that there are tasty treasures to hunt for in this frozen tundra.