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Kyle McLoughlin, climber with Davey's Hamilton office, describes edible berries on a recent hike.

Davey Arborist Explains Why Foraging Is More Than Just Fun

September 10, 2013

During my work travels over the years, I've had countless opportunities to explore beautiful, unique environments and mysterious forests. As I tread upon the worn paths and trails ahead of me, I take a few moments to study the branches, leaves and bark I brush past and observe along my way.

I've met many species of wildlife, from deer disguising themselves among tree trunks, hiding from the slight sounds of leaves crunching beneath my soft, slow steps, to birds scouring the earth for food beneath the canopies they call home.

Some hikers, cyclists and dog walkers, who I've also witnessed frequenting the same paths and trails I often do, seem to enjoy exploring the edible materials they encounter during their outdoor experiences. For some people, their meals depend on Mother Nature's available provisions on any given day.

Arborist foraging in winter
Kyle McLoughlin, Davey arborist

They're called foragers, or people who acquire their food by hunting, fishing or gathering plant matter. Yet, as I explore a variety of outdoor environments for my career, I wonder: Can foraging be beneficial for the arborist career? Davey arborist Kyle McLoughlin seems to believe so.

McLoughlin, a climber from Davey's Hamilton office, discovered his love for foraging several years ago when he was a river guide near his home town. His interest grew even more when he began working at the McMaster Outdoor Club as a climbing and hiking leader who was able to help others with foraging.

"It's been a real boon being able to teach people," McLoughlin says. "From elementary to university to adults to professionals--they're always fascinated with learning about the different things they can eat outdoors."

Although he encourages the adventuresome spirits of those learning to forage, McLouglin expresses the importance of knowing exactly what you're consuming. "It's easy to poison yourself if you're not 100 percent sure," says McLoughlin. "Even though in Canada we have comparably fewer poisonous plants, it only takes one mistake."

Arborist describing cattails
Davey arborist Kyle McLoughlin shares information on cattails, which he finds to be a very handy plant during winter and spring.

McLoughlin has indeed been able to use his foraging, hiking and climbing skills in his career as an arborist. "Working at the McMaster Outdoor Club has been arguably more valuable than my history degree," he laughs. "What I've learned as a wilderness guide--logistics, leadership skills, how to plan trips--has given me so many opportunities and is actually what got me into arboriculture."

Before my next outdoor excursion, I'll take McLoughlin's advice and better prepare myself to encounter the otherwise lesser known treasures Mother Nature provides us all year long. You never know, a refreshing afternoon snack might be hidden within the trees and shrubs rights before you.


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