Today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a great front-page article on morel mushroom hunters. It highlights one in particular, and gives a lot of insights into how these entrepreneurs make markets, and make markets work better.
When he loaded his family into a beat-up white Chevy van and drove here in May from his home in Randle, Wash., Hassan Voir figured he’d be earning as much as $800 a day. A Cambodian native, Mr. Voir has become a professional picker of wild mushrooms — matsutakes in September, chanterelles in January. When hunting morels, Mr. Voir travels in the path of wildfires, which his brother tracks for him on the Internet.
Mr. Voir has also learned that picking is just one way to earn money in this business. Another is buying. Structured markets don’t exist for wild crops. But markets emerge wherever these products are found. Here, crude white tents with signs that read “mushroom buyer” have sprung up on the dusty washboard road that winds north to the Canadian border. One of those tents belongs to Mr. Voir.
The 38-year-old Mr. Voir rises before dawn each morning and strikes out to pick, carrying along an empty pickle bucket and walking as many as five miles, looking for burned logs, riverbanks and other spots where morels thrive. When he returns 10 hours later, he opens his buying tent and starts his second job. Nearby, his wife and three young children live in a rugged tent with a blue tarp spread out before it like a front porch. Mrs. Voir warms her infant son Jamal’s milk over a fire.
I love this. He provides a profit opportunity for others who just want to gather, and then he profits from selling larger quantities of morels to wholesalers. Life is beautiful.