Uses This

1207 interviews since 2009

A picture of Alexander McNaughton

Alexander McNaughton

Forager, farmer

in food, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Forager and farmer; I spend my time working with food and connecting with people who share this passion. I supply restaurants with wild and local ingredients, work with craft brewers and distillers sourcing botanicals, and offer bespoke food and foraging experiences for the public @ alexandermcnaughton.com.

Find me picking wild rose blossoms in early morning dawn light or haunting mossy mushroom forests as the light falls; I live and breath in wild places and am a product of that environment. Typical days involve foraging in remote wilderness places and managing the daily operations on our farm; as an owner/operator I do sales and distribution, manage logistics and deliveries, deal with processing and post-harvest storage and do a weekly farmers market with our products. I have a commercial kitchen space on our 11 acre property that the products gets processed and handled in; lots of time spent in the space after harvesting missions; some days in peak season there could be as many as a dozen orders that need custom packing and parcel wrapping; they would subsequently fly out that next morning with a ground courier delivery on the other end. I often take calls from prominent chefs as I am harvesting product in the field; true forest to plate connections, and have had all sorts of interesting special requests including deliveries to remote destination resorts via floatpane and courier drops on the Canada 150 icebreaker.

We also produce cut flowers on the farm; so during the season there is at least 2 weekly flower arranging sessions and subsequent deliveries to local businesses; a flower CSA if you will.

Spring finds me harvesting green edible, summer is all about those tree fruits, and fall is deep in the mushroom forests. Winter is firewood, winter chanterelle picking and farm infrastructure work. And the glamorous stuff like accounting and web development, branding and paperwork ect ect. Follow in my adventure on the 'gram or hit me up via my site; send food snapshots for identification if you find something interesting! Use me as a litmus test for best places to eat in the province; clients range from fine dinning establishments with respect for the craft like The Wickannish Inn, Hawksworth, and The Botanist; to the leading plant based establishment, certifiably delicious AF The Acorn Restaurant, to creative genius chefs at the top of their game like Andrea Carlson and Joel Watanabe, to legendary local rogue distillers like Odd Society and Tofino Brewing, to ice cream wizards like Earnest Ice Cream and fermentation gurus like Karen McAthy, and the legendary hebridean distillers Bruichladdich.

What hardware do you use?

97' Toyota Tacoma, triple custom flatdeck unit for backcountry assault; can handle anything from use as a sleeping platform deep in the forest on a mushroom harvesting trip, to hauling a cord of firewood or a load of farm products. Custom 10 leaf spring pack for extra stability under weighty loads; gives it a Mad Max appearance, just missing the gun mount on the back and it wouldn't be out of place in a warzone.

Normally there is a gear bin with standard stuff; puncture kit, water, snacks, ropes and ratchet straps, first aid kit, harvesting knives and bags. Headlamps and battery powered utility lights, extra hand soap and sanitizer and paper towels to keep hands clean during the day. I'm partial to those rubberized gardening gloves so there is usually a pair or two of designated clean ones for food product harvesting.

15" MacBook Pro, mid 2015. Workhorse of a machine.

Small battery pack unit for iPhone juicing in the wilds, small inverter.

Small fortune in pumps and filtration and UV; put in an inspected water system last year for the property and integrated a cistern for summer water buffer, secondary surface well.

I live in carhearts for most of the season, classic duck canvas double knee pant lasts me a season and handles most conditions comfortably.Vintage 60's French naval trouser in melton wool for winter picking and cold spring harvesting. Extensive Pendleton shirt collection, often worn as doubles(one inside the other) for maximum warmth and comfort. Pendleton felted wool hat.

Vintage cedar strip canoe for lakeshore harvests.

Stihl MS 260 chainsaw with woodsman's case, full kit of files and wedges and paraphernalia require. Big K Logger King neon orange chaps, hard helmet w/ shield and ear protection, etc etc.

Arteryx gore shell always rolled up in the truck. Danner boots or maybe zamberlane or other alpine boot. Pioneer shell bib pant for rainy days; I kneel in wet foliage for a living and these are key for working long days and staying dry.

Random food grade pails, cambros and hotel pans. Lots of stainless equipment and kitchen stuff on hand, racknrolls and sheet pans.

FELCO's classic number 9 for most harvesting tasks. Utility scissors for green product harvesting. iPhone of some sort in an Otterbox waterproof or lifeproof. Silky folding BIGBOY. Hatchet, Swedish of unknown origin. Axe, Arvika 5*, and Oxhead splitter of German origin. Mcusta folding knife. Norwegian knife, orange handle utility.

Vacmaster chamber sealer in the kitchen, big commercial unit. Walk-in cooler/Coolbot unit in the kitchen for product storage.

Mountain hardware tent, camping gear kit for deep bush overnights. MSR snowshoes for winter adventures. Giant mountain bike for quick access to 'the patch.' Sealion dry bag, the big yellow unit for whitewater kayaking blue barrels, 60L capacity for hauling product. Mastercraft roughtotes for product storage while in the field. Big white Coleman coolers for sensisitve product in transit. Cherry picking padded shoulder harness, for buckets to be clipped to during harvest.

Kubota B7800 for the farm work.

And what software?

macOS, Instagram, FB. Mostly I live in Safari. QuickBooks for the business. Square for payments. Avenza for maps. Google Maps for sat map tracking. Weather app on constant standby. VLC for movies.

What would be your dream setup?

Dream setup would be a baja race truck overbuilt unit; electric hybrid diesel with veggie oil optional; filtration and processing built into the unit so I could take used oil in the field and run it same day. Was coveting an '76 international harvester a while back, big beast of a truck with a dump box... something along those lines but more efficient. Ideally there is a built in reefer box that can be added for summer months and mushroom harvesting.

My dream setup is pretty much where I am at... large enough property you don't have to see your neighbors, can make lots of noise any time you like and grow all your own food. Enough standing timber I can cut firewood until old age takes me quietly into the mist. Our forest behind my shop has mushrooms growing June-December; lobster, hedgehog, chanterelle, queen and king porchini... one day there will be a shitake alder log area, maybe hosting lion's mane or pink oysters in the summer season. I plan to inoculate stumps with chicken of the woods this spring; should be interesting to see it take to the new home.

Dream setup? True food abundance 12 months a year; to decouple myself from the industrial system as much as possible and focus on feeding people in the community. Imagine 11 acres of food producing system engineered with as many passive systems integrated as possible; to work with the natural systems at hand to exist with as low of a footprint as possible. Net zero waste for the food supply company, for our home, our community. To never buy another crappy vegetable wrapped in plastic from someplace else. Decouple. Opt out. Off grid. Beyond organic, permaculture, biodynamic. To slowly walk the food forests as an old man and have the next generation feed me the fruits when I can no longer climb the fig tree. There are moments in my life that begin to approach this future; moments of complete zen flow state immersed in the natural environment deep in the deafening silence only wilderness can provide, Jedi forest ninja moments of mossy introspection, where I see the forest through the trees. Profound primal experiences that touch something deep in the genome, from a time before we all became slaves to the machine and forgot about the basics like clean air, water and food from the land.

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