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Is the Commercialization of Wild Plants by Organic Producers in Austria Neglected or Irrelevant?

Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), Gregor-Mendel-Strasse 33, 1180 Wien, Austria
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Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 3989; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10113989
Received: 15 October 2018 / Revised: 24 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 October 2018 / Published: 31 October 2018
European countries are split over the appreciation of wild berries, fruits, mushrooms, and herbs. While some countries provide public statistics on wild plants, others seem to neglect wild plant gathering and commercialization. In this study, we aimed to understand if wild plant commercialization is neglected or irrelevant in Austria, a country that does not provide statistics. We focus on organic producers, because organic certification of wild plant gathering might have potential for countering frequent concerns about commercial gathering, including destructive gathering and overharvesting. Using a mixed-methods approach with a concurrent triangulation design, databases of six organic certification bodies were analysed concurrently with semi-structured expert interviews of their representatives. We found that organic certification for gathering was issued to 1.5% of organic producers in the year 2016 in Austria and is relevant for three distinct gatherer types: regular, diversified, and single-plant gatherers. Organic gathering is most frequently part of agricultural or horticultural farms and rarely an isolated commercial activity. It is related to mixed farming, deepening on-farm diversification, and contributes to maintaining traditions, as well as the local socio-ecological memory of wild plant products. Organic wild plants are directly marketed to consumers as traditional and innovative products, but also supplied to mass markets. We conclude that from a socio-cultural perspective and a focus on regional economies, organic gathering is neglected in Austria, whereas from an income perspective, wild plant gathering seems to be indeed relevant for few organic producers, although exhibiting potential. View Full-Text
Keywords: foraging; health food; traditional knowledge; neglected and underutilized species; non-timber forest product; organic farming; superfood; wild edible plant; wild food foraging; health food; traditional knowledge; neglected and underutilized species; non-timber forest product; organic farming; superfood; wild edible plant; wild food
MDPI and ACS Style

Schunko, C.; Vogl, C.R. Is the Commercialization of Wild Plants by Organic Producers in Austria Neglected or Irrelevant? Sustainability 2018, 10, 3989.

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