For foragers and commoners alike, the arrival of autumn means one thing—the sprouting of those delicate long stemmed caps: Mushrooms. No one is more accustomed to nature’s most tantalizing delicacies than Bill Holmes, founder and Forager-in-chief at Deer Holme farms.

Now with a multitude of books dedicated to the craft, various foraging and cooking classes, and heavy involvement within the sustainability movement on the West Coast. Holmes says it all began in Calgary, Alberta when his passion for mountaineering and backpacking led him to reconsider his rationing during his trip.

“I wanted to supplement the packed meals I was bringing along,” says Holmes in an email interview.

What began as fishing for mountain trout soon developed into edible green foraging and adding wild onions to the mix. The more educated Holmes got, the more he saw the infinite possibilities Mother Nature had to offer, and thus blossomed a passion that led him to where he is today.

“It wasn’t until I moved to France that I saw the culinary possibilities of mushrooms and began to learn about foraging for fungi,” says Holmes. ”When I returned to Canada, I was pleased to see we had all the same type of mushrooms—just more abundant and bigger specimens than in Europe.”

Foraging is more than just filling up your basket with edibles, points out Holmes.

“When you look at the world around you and view it through the lens of the forager, you are forced to assess the health of the environment,” says Holmes. “[Paying attention] forces you to be aware of our impact on the world around us and leads you down the path of environmental awareness.”

Not only does foraging give us a mindful outlook on nature, it is also sustainable and healthy. Many foraged plants not only contain many beneficial nutrients like antioxidants good for boosting the immune system, but some wild foods, like certain mushrooms, have medicinal properties as well as delicate flavours.

“Mushrooms are the fruit of a larger organism and it is a fairly sustainable harvest, with exceptions, like all things,” says Holmes.


Bill Holmes stands in his work place amongst the trees. Photo by Chris Pouget

Foraging is not only beneficial to the environment for its low impact on its environment, it also gives amateurs a thrill.

“Most people are excited by the stimulus of learning about the world around us,” says Holmes. “I teach people to appreciate the trees, the terrain, and the connected nature of all things around us—but they also get excited when I feed them good food.”

Despite outside forces like forestry, pollution, and water contamination endangering delicate habitats, the demand for foraging education remains strong.

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