Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Christopher Chizinski

Second Advisor

Jenny Dauer

Date of this Version



McFarlin, I. I. (2021). Understanding and Contextualizing Foraging Among Recreational Opportunities in the North Central United States. Master's thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professors Christopher Chizinski and Jenny Dauer. Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2021

Copyright © 2021 Iris I. McFarlin


Over the past few decades, there has been a resurgence in popularity and recognition of foraging for wild products and foods. Despite the cultural importance and ubiquity of foraging, there have been relatively few scientific investigations (as compared to other consumptive outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing) of the social factors influencing foraging behavior, landscape preferences, and the types of materials foraged in the United States. As such, there is a fundamental need to understand more about the practice and about those who participate. We conducted two surveys to gather information on foragers’ motivations and demographic characteristics and to understand (i.e., contextualize) the placement of foraging within the larger recreation landscape. The first survey focused on foragers in north central US, and the second focused on the general population of Nebraska. Results from the first survey indicated that respondents forage to relax and escape, to feel self-empowered and know about food sourcing, and for the social benefits of participation. Further, we grouped respondents into four clusters based on motivations: self-empowered foragers, multi-motivation foragers, casual foragers, and social foragers. Overall, there were few significant differences in demographics or behaviors between clusters. Results from the second survey indicated that approximately 13% of the Nebraska population engaged in foraging in 2019. Overall, there were few demographic differences between foragers and non-foragers in Nebraska. However, those who foraged tended to participate in other recreation activities at a higher proportion compared to non-foragers. While activities such as spectator sports, culture and arts were more preferred than foraging, other outdoor activities such as hunting and shooting, fishing, and wildlife viewing were less preferred than foraging. By understanding the behaviors and motivations of foragers and how foraging fits into the recreation landscape, we gain insight into the importance of foraging and the behaviors of those participating, which has important implications in the formulation of appropriate policies and management of recreational opportunities.

Advisors: Christopher Chizinski and Jenny Dauer