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A Treasure Hunt that Pays!

October 24, 2019

I have just had my book, Income for Life, published! Today, I’d like to share one of the 65 chapters of income-generating ideas that absolutely anyone can start using right away.

Like everyone else, I’m incredibly reliant on mobile technology. Google (GOOGL) Maps and Waze are lifesavers when it comes to tracking down the locations of new restaurants, and having a mobile version of my Bloomberg Terminal on my Blackberry keeps me tuned into the markets.

But while there’s a lot of value in smartphones, I still relish the chance to unplug—if only for an hour or two!

There’s a lot to be said for a quiet walk in the woods, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the rustle of the leaves and birdsongs overhead.

And if you can get away from it all and make a few thousand bucks in the process… all the better!

It may sound too good to be true.

And when I give you all the details, it may even sound too absurd to be true.

But believe me when I say that there is a lot of money to be made by keen-eyed outdoorsy types who know their way around the woods.

I’m talking about foraging for mushrooms.

Before you close my missive for this week and write me off as a crazy person, hear me out.

Better yet, hear it firsthand from a guy who forages for wild mushrooms and regularly takes home four figures a season.

In a piece published in Forbes, Frank Hyman talked about his trips into the woods each fall to harvest maitake, chicken-of-the-woods and lion’s mane edible mushrooms. “Foraging sporadically between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, I harvested about 120 pounds,” Hyman said.

The mushrooms commanded $12 to $25 a pound—good for some $3,000 in just a few weeks’ work! And I know firsthand, as I’ve enjoyed paying up at my local Balducci’s for them.

And lest you think this is back-breaking labor, hunching over day after day as you gather fistfuls of tiny brown things, keep in mind that the choice fungi used by top-level chefs (or home cooks like me) grow in large, meaty mushrooms.

That means you only need a few dozen mushrooms in total to generate that kind of income.

“A single five-pound chicken-of-the-woods mushroom is bigger than a loaf of bread and could earn you $100,” Hyman said in Forbes.

How to Hunt for Mushroom Treasures in Your Neck of the Woods

Now, you might not be into cooking for friends and loved ones like I am, and you might not know about all of the varieties of mushrooms. But I’m sure that you’ve enjoyed many of them whether in a lovely risotto or on top of a great pizza.

And as I’ve written about in Profitable Investing, old packaged consumer food companies have been challenged to address the massive changes in consumer tastes, including for all sorts of fresh ingredients from the now ubiquitous kale and ancient grains to avocado-everything on restaurant menus.

It’s clear that eating habits are changing, particularly among younger Americans. So why not cash in on this trend, if you’re the outdoorsy type.

Presuming you’re not grossed out by the prospect of carrying a basket of mushrooms through a gloomy forest on a misty morning, here’s how you can get started in this odd but often lucrative hobby:

Get a guide to learn your local fungi: There are a host of illustrated guides out there to help you, exhaustively outlining just what mushrooms are safe to consume and how to identify them.

Good guides also give you a more precise sense of what grows where and when and are a must-have to avoid harmful varieties of mushrooms.

Look for local mushroom groups: Many communities have mushroom lovers that organize in groups and offer educational nature walks. In this digital age, many of them have Facebook pages and websites, too!

The Morel Mushroom Hunting Club is dedicated to fans of a specific variety of mushroom. There are also numerous regional mycological associations—that’s the scientific name for mushrooms—cataloged on the North American Mycological Association’s website.

This kind of expert-led education will ensure you make the most of your time in the woods.

Identify your favorites: Most mushroom hunters zero in on just a few species rather than run around the woods looking for everything. Every environment is different, and you’ll soon find some mushrooms are more abundant than others.

Learn where they thrive, what the look like and even how they smell. Finding a few target fungi is the best way to make the most of your time in the woods.

Connect with buyers: The last link in the chain, of course, is finding someone to take all that fungus off your hands! Now, you can’t just go to your local chain restaurant and expect them to write a check. And in some states, you may need a licensed mushroom identification expert to verify your finds before sale.

But the “farm to table” movement is alive in well in just about every community, and I’m sure you know some local restaurants that would love to say they have locally sourced mushrooms on their menu. And if you don’t want to rely on just one or two chefs, consider a local farmer’s market where you can set up a booth and sell mushrooms at premium retail prices.

There are admittedly better regions for mushroom foraging than others, and this is not a hobby for those who like the creature comforts of civilization.

If you live in a desert like Tucson or Las Vegas, or if tripping over roots on a muddy forest path sounds like a terrible way to spend an evening, this is clearly not an idea for you.

But it’s easy to understand how people get hooked.

It’s like an adult version of hunting for Easter eggs or buried pirate treasure!

As I said, I love mushrooms, which I enjoy simply in a cream sauce over toast. But even if you are not a voracious mushroom eater personally, the idea of making money simply by taking a hike away from the hustle and bustle of daily life should be appealing to you.

Most edible mushroom species emerge in fall from the end of September through Thanksgiving, which is a favorite time of year for many.

The weather is cool, the leaves are turning…

…if you can take all that in and make a few bucks at the same time, to me that sounds like a perfect way to spend an afternoon!

Now, spending a nice day on a walk in the woods that can pay you might not seem like one of my usual income ideas, but it is just one of the 65 income stream ideas—from investing to side hustles that anyone can easily achieve—that I’ve written about in my new book, Income for Life.

If you’re looking for better returns in the market or just want to make some extra cash, I highly encourage you to check out Income for Life. It includes nearly 400 pages of income-producing investment strategies for all economic conditions as well as additional income-generating “side hustles” that anyone can use successfully.

All My Best,

Neil George
Editor, Dividend Digest & Profitable Investing
Author, Income for Life