Photo by seantoyer/Flickr CC
Ian Pocock, Yale University's forager, just finished his first week on the job. When I asked him how it was going, he said, "It's cool. Most people think I'm gonna be out in the forest gathering mushrooms."
In my imagination a forager is a mythical being. He appears at the back doors of restaurants bearing wild delicacies secured from a secret woodland location. Depending on geography and season, he might have baskets full of morels or chanterelles, truffles wrapped in handkerchiefs, or boxes bursting with fiddleheads and ramps. The forager is at one with the woods.
These days, the forager tends to be a hobbyist or someone who sells to upscale restaurants that can pay the price of the treats he unearths. I was excited to learn that Wikepidia's entry for forager is a 1972 DC Comics superhero who hangs out with bugs. Sadly, the Forager seems to have enjoyed less success than Superman.
Ian is not your average forager: He is likely to be the first one ever employed by a university. His position is the result of a fruitful collaboration between the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Yale Dining, and the Yale Sustainable Food Project. It's an example of just one of the many ways schools can use existing USDA or state grants to build a new regional food system.