The ethics of foraging: step 1, don’t steal

Black walnut tree

Black walnut tree

I recently pointed out in my pecan foraging post, when you take food from someone else’s land without permission that’s not “foraging,” it’s stealing.

This morning, while it was still mostly dark, I saw someone “foraging” under my black walnut tree.  The tree isn’t quite old enough to be producing nuts yet, so it was a waste of time for them.  I assume they waited so late in the year because it’s cold enough now that much of the undergrowth has died back, the spiders are dead and the snakes are hibernating, which makes getting to that tree a much easier task.

The tree is located in an overgrown natural looking area that functionally serves as drainage for the entire neighborhood.  It may be overgrown, but I do cultivate and grow food on that property, and I own it.  The person was probably a neighbor, since they knew it was a walnut tree even though it has no leaves now.  I doubt they sincerely were trying to steal anything, they probably just assumed that something not-a-yard was wild property and free game.

While I could have come out of the house in my pajamas waving a shotgun, I chose to let it slide.  I do want to encourage people to forage where appropriate.  But my neighbor will have to get up a whole lot earlier in the fall to beat me to black walnuts when that tree starts producing!  And I, meanwhile, will have to spread the word around the neighborhood that that property is not abandoned: it’s mine.

(By Nicole Castle)

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