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Is Farm to Table Dead in North Dakota or is it the “Mushrooms” Talking?

All About Food | October 23rd, 2019

It is ironic that in the state where the mentality of protecting the 2nd Amendment at all costs is considering making foraged food items such as, wild, local mushrooms be controlled by the state. Forcing restaurateurs to buy all their food stuffs through licensed vendors or in the case of mushrooms from licensed, expert foragers.

Is this the same slippery slope occupied by gun owners? Can chefs and restaurateurs seek protection somewhere in the constitution. First, it’s the mushrooms, and then what, farm-stand tomatoes, corn and beans, where does it end, peaches, watermelon?

Is this a dark conspiracy fueled by professional, licensed, mushroom foragers or the deep-state produce companies? Next mushroom season can we expect bloody confrontations in the normal, peaceful, idyllic woods as people stake out their territories and armed mushroom police descend on the happy mushroom hunters? So many questions. I thought it best to seek a professional opinion outside of the restaurant community, that is literally fuming and circling their wagons for a fight.

I reached out to Grant Larson, who is the Director of Environmental Health for the city of Fargo. Grant is an approachable person who doesn’t display some of the characteristics we have become used to seeing in people in government roles. In fact, he is quite open and refreshing honest. When I asked about the open-range war on mushrooms he dispelled it as a misunderstanding in the proposed revision of The Cottage Food Product Act. To help clarify his position on the mushroom issue he sent me a brief description of what is on the proverbial table from Julie Wagendorf, Director The Division of Food and Lodging and the person trying to clear up any confusion on the matter of foraged fungi.

In her message to Grant Larson she states; “Confusion by restaurant operators and chefs in the use of wild mushrooms may be a misunderstanding of section 3-201.16 (A) Wild Mushrooms of the food code”

This section (B) basically says “mushrooms species picked in the wild shall not be offered for sale or service by a FOOD ESTABLISHMENT unless the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT has been approved to do so.” It seems that it is an establishment by establishment permit per se.

It goes on to say, and this is the important bit. “The approval process for wild mushrooms is currently applied by each local regulatory agency; each of who have flexibility for establishing its approval process” and further-more “this approval process is not dependent upon the cottage food law”.

However, there is still some nagging verbiage about “expert foragers” supplying mushrooms. The whole provision is still a bit fuzzy, but I am sticking with Grant when he says he gets to make the call locally. Which invites the question, what makes an “expert” mushroom forager? People around here have been foraging for years and anyone still standing after years of gobbling down wild mushrooms in my book is therefore an expert. And where does one find an “expert” and to what cost? I suppose there must be some equivalency test board out there somewhere.

This all just seems a little over-baked and hysterical frankly. There are so many restaurants in America and around the world that rely on foraging to feed not only their menus but their integrity for pure wholesome food. Actually, some of our finest restaurants such as Meadowood in California and Nona in Copenhagen (Number 1 restaurant in the world four years in a row) base a majority of their food on locally sourced and foraged items. I prefer my food without the help of Monsanto’s chemistry lab, I have complete faith in Mother Nature as my source.

Which brings me back to that slippery slope. In essence the “Cottage Food Law” seems more focused on canned items that if not prepared properly can be deadly and there are rules for their sale and consumption. But what of the creative Chef who puts up their own beans or tomatoes within the confines of their own professional kitchens? And chefs who shop the farmers markets for garden fresh vegetables far from the poisonous reach on Monsanto and corporate farming. Let’s not forget the commercially grown romaine lettuce debacle last year which sickened how many people across a broad spectrum. Where were the “lettuce experts” when we really needed them.

The reason certain restaurants in town have cultivated loyal customers it is because their clientele “trust” them. They appreciate that they seek freshness in their produce and do a fine job respecting that produce from the minute it enters their kitchen, right up to the moment it arrives plated for your pleasure. That shows integrity on both sides of the plate, the chef and the customer. Take the guns, I don’t need them to find my mushrooms, I’ve got Brewster.

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