Wilde-7 is one example how with the internet everyone can spread information and find new ways of making a living with the individual resources at hand.
For me it began with a book on a tv-broadcast on edible wild garden weeds, back in the late 1990s. First, it was just one of many interesting things in my life I didn’t learn about in school. During my study in Organic Agriculture I stumbled over wild edibles here and there again. But only after finishing my study and moving to Ecovillage Sieben Linden my interest in this topic became more solid. New opportunities presented themselve: mainly a big organic garden area with a huge diversity of wild plants and other people familiar with wild edibles.
We heard about a woman living 60km near to Sieben Linden with a small allotment and a wild herb delivery online-service. We contacted and visited her to see how she works. Our conclusion afterwards: We can do this, too. And have even better preconditions. We had enough knowledge about wild edibles, we had a variety of plants growing at Sieben Linden which grow happily by themselve, and we were two.
The biggest obstacle was customers – how to reach them and how to make the plants available to them. Nowadays it is very easy to build a simple website in a few steps and there are several free open source webshop systems available. When we started in 2008 it wasn’t that easy. We were lucky a friend built us a database based on Microsoft-Access for ridiculously little money. He set up a shop for us based on a free open source software. We had – and still have – not enough IT-skills that would allow us to do it ourselves. This is still our achilles heel: For everything technical we need support from outside.
Once the online shop was set up and working we needed only two knifes and two baskets to collect the herbs with, a shed to pack and box them and a contract with a courier company to get the boxes to our customers countrywide – and, of course – customers.
We both kept on doing what we did so far: working in the Sieben Linden organic garden, giving seminars and other small things to make a living in such a remote area of Germany. Financially, we didn’t depend on Wilde-7 to be successful from the start. That gave us the luxury to start small and see how it goes. To get first customers we sent out a newsletter to friends, family and the network of Sieben Linden supporters. And we got response enough to give it a start! After that new customers just found us by searching for ‚wild plants‘ on the internet or by hearing from others about us. We never spent money on any advertisements.
The first year we made no profit to really speak of for the whole season april till october 2008. We sent out the fresh wild herbs on mondays and thursdays. We started with 1-2 kg in 10-20 boxes a week. There were already other wild herb delivery businesses running in Germany we compared prizes with. We had to somehow find out what to charge our customers. Interestingly, these businesses seem to be a german phenomenom. We often get contacted by people from Austria and Switzerland who tell us that they couldn’t find a similar delivery service in their countries. We wonder why. Especially when it is so simple to set it up. There seems to be enough demand for it. And wild plants grow literally everywhere. For free.
Today, we send out 90-100 boxes with 25-35kg fresch wild herbs weekly. The most limiting factor is not the availability of fresh wild plants but time: We can only start at sunrise and have to have everything ready for delivery at noon, when the courier comes to get the boxes. (Usually, the boxes reach the customers the next day. No expensive Express delivery neccessary). Sunrise differs during the season – in spring and late summer we have up to 3 hours less time for everything than in june, but usually not less orders. Therefore we employ 2-3 people every season to help us. To them it is the best opportunity to sustainably learn about wild plants, for this is the best way to do it: Going outdoors regularly with someone who knows something about it. We, personally, never learned by reading books. Our knowledge also expanded over the years so that the diversity of wild plants known to us grew as well and with it the amount of fresh matter we were able to collect and send out.
However and whenever we can we still educate the wider public about wild edibles and how to identify and to collect them. We don’t think our business will be affected by more and more people getting the confidence again to get out and collect wild plants themselves. We love when people do that. It is one step towards food souvereignity. And it changed our perspective, how we see nature: As life nurturing mother rather than a beast that is out to get us. And that we must do everything we can to stop the destruction our western capitalist lifestyle creates.
Go for it!