UNFARMED: A video series by Lowe + HeLzer

Natalie SoComment

Unfarmed, the latest project by Alana Lowe and Paul Helzer, is an ongoing video series about wild harvest-ables that grow in our midst (uncannily aligned with our FIELD to BODY project). With five released episodes thus far, Lowe + Helzer document foragers and wild crafters as they show how to find and use plants, fungi, seaweed, berries, herbs, bark, salt, grains, and flowers—anything that grows in the wild. 

In the first episode, Unfarmed spends the day with wild food guru Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. Hank is on his knees, digging in the sand with a trowel, a cooler by his side. He is looking for Western and Pacific Littleneck Clams in the Tomales Bay. “The one thing people need to understand when people pursue wild food … is that … you have to accept the possibility of failure in the pursuit of wild food because it happens all the time,” he says, in the video's voiceover. Toward the end of the video, Hank is in his kitchen, making an orrechiette dish in the low-light of the evening. He chops up wild boar chorizo and tosses the pasta with garlic, parsley, and lemon zest. The solitary work of the wilderness man is demystified here: the outdoor labor requires effort for sure, and the indoor creative process requires some knowledge, but both seem accessible and doable (here's his recipe for Clams in Black Bean Sauce). 

Other individuals featured include Tanya Stiller, an educator and herbalist, who harvests pedicularis densiflora for a tincture and talks about the ethics of foraging; Brett Poirier, who makes a salad from wild greens like miners lettuce, watercress, stinging nettles, and ostrich fern fiddleheads; and two of our own Edition Local friends: Halley Roberts, who gathers elderflower for a tangy and refreshing cordial, and ethnobotanist Deepa Preeti Natarajan, who demonstrates how to dye natural fibers with spring plum leaf. A recipe is included with each episode.

Unfarmed is an intimate look at the personal relationships individuals like Hank have forged with the outdoors—a relationship that, to the uninitiated, may seem foreign, challenging, and impossible. The videos are at once anthropological and ethnobotanical studies as well as personal histories, but Unfarmed is also a practical and educational project, an implicit encouragement to look, gather, and physically connect with the wild. This was our hope too—in launching our FIELD to BODY project, which came to a close on Sunday—that people would begin to see and learn about the economy created by foragers, botanical dyers, herbalists, apothecaries, and more. Though we're still learning, we've found this to be true: the more connected we are to this earth and to the people around us, the better off we’ll be.

Check out Unfarmed here. Watch their videos on Vimeo and follow them on Twitter.