Q&A: Can Fergus Eat Wild for a Year?

Photo from Fergus Drennan, originally in Plenty magazine

Photo from Fergus Drennan, originally in Plenty magazine

Fergus Drennan, the U.K. forager who recently wrote a fantastic guest post on this site about how to tap a birch tree, is a 41-year-old wild food educator and writer near Canterbury, Kent, England. He is gearing up to become a full-time, year-round forager. He plans to blog about his experience on his site, WildManWildFood, and possibly turn that into a book. I interviewed Fergus about his project.

Which wild foods do you anticipate will be your staples during the year-long wild food experiment?

Fergus: Acorns, chestnuts, walnuts, oysters, and various wild greens that are both abundant and can be utilized to extend their use beyond their usual growing season. Things like, nettles, wild garlic, and sea beet. Also collecting and bottling highly nutritious juices such as that of sea buckthorn berries will be very important. Of course, such ideas involve the anticipation of a good harvest. For a number of these foods 2012 was the worst I’ve known in 20 years. I hope that won’t be the case in 2013/4.

Will you be doing this experiment entirely solo?

Fergus: I’ll be the only person living entirely through the year eating 100% foraged food. However, for a week each month and on various weekends throughout the year, I’ll be inviting people to live, experience and document the adventure from their own unique perspective as they live the 100% wild diet with me. Such people may be foragers, chefs, bushcrafters, survivalists, a mother with children, permaculturalists or people with no knowledge of wild foods whatsoever.

What’s the longest you’ve gone solely or mostly eating wild food until now? How many hours do you think you’ll spend foraging or processing food per day?

Fergus: On two occasions I’ve gone 9 weeks eating solely foraged foods; 1 month was completely vegan. That was easier than I thought. I felt fantastic on many levels, although due to the climate in the UK it’s not really practical to be wild and vegan for more than a month or two. On both those occasions over 9 weeks, I found that I foraged on average for 2 hours a day, with about 4 hours given over to processing and cooking – and many hours researching.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Fergus: I’m very inspired by nature and female energies that are immense, powerful and challenging! Obviously I’m also inspired by all those who seek to live a good life in love, creativity, sensitivity and respectful engagement with the natural world and each other, be they poets, musicians, writers, politicians, friends, family. But I find that seemingly complete arseholes can be just as inspiring!

Do you consider yourself more of a foodie/chef type or a survivalist type or a naturalist forager, if you had to choose? Most foragers tend to be in one category or the others.

Fergus: My interest in foraging is very organic and evolving. To do it, explore it, research it and live it simply feels like an alignment with my purpose and deepest motivations and desires – an often tempestuous love affair with wild nature. On the other hand, I wonder if falling out of my pram as a baby simply activated some recessive hunter-gatherer gene!? Who knows why? It is a fundamentally beautiful, infuriating, animating and overwhelming mystery.

As to the type of forager I am, well, the honest truth is that I like to explore foraging and wild foods from as many perspectives as possible. I trained as a chef, have a degree in religious studies, have a profound interest in sustainability and primitive skills and…try to balance out my explorations in the foraging realm in all these ways equally.

What changes would you make to the modern world to make it more forager friendly?

Fergus: I live not far from a small city, there, and in many places around the world, urban (and elsewhere) trees are succumbing to disease. I’d love to see these all replaced by fruit and nut (chocolate) trees. Also, I’d make practical, fun and creative, permaculture-based environmental education a core subject of study from the earliest age, with serious study given to the works of naturalists, artists, poets, musicians, Osho, Charles Eisenstein, Mark Boyle, and David Deida in later years!

Tell us a bit about what you hope your project will reveal to the rest of us about being a full-time forager.

Fergus: I want to explore and share my explorations of the deep life affirming connection that working with plants and wild foods in particular can bring, fully embracing the challenges of the moment whilst also thinking in terms of the coming days and weeks, and in terms of how my activities impact now, in 5 years, 25 years, 250 years, 25000 years. Some will think me absurd, some brave, some inspirational, some deluded, some enlightened, some egotistical. No matter. This is what I feel I need to do. If it is the right thing it will happen and I will be supported. Support for this project is something I joyfully embrace, cherish and am immensely grateful for; resistance and criticism I see as an opportunity to inform what I do, and strengthen my resolve and push through.

“A society grows great when old men and women plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in” – Greek proverb

Fergus is looking for crowd-funding on IndieGogo to support him as he does this because a) he wants to get samples of the plants he eats tested for contamination and b) scouting, gathering, and processing enough wild food to live on is pretty much a full-time job.

To help Fergus fund his dream: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-one-year-total-wild-food-experiment

3 thoughts on “Q&A: Can Fergus Eat Wild for a Year?

  1. Pingback: April Blog C hallenge Day 4 | Linda's New Garden & Wildlife Journey

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