Business: Autumn Harvest
Owner: Christopher Kowalski
Location: Forgaging across Victoria and supplying to restaurants, retailers and markets around Australia.
Christopher Kowalski is a forager.
To be specific, Chris forages for wild mushrooms. For a living. I’m sure I’m not the only aspiring-entrepreneur who is inspired that a job this specifically niche exists. Now the largest supplier of wild mushrooms in Victoria, Autumn Harvest prides itself on a commitment to offering only the best of what nature provides, whilst maintaining strong relationships with restaurateurs and key clients across the state.
Founded in 2010, Autumn Harvest specialises in sourcing the best wild mushrooms, bridging the gap between forest and plate, supplying some of Australia’s best restaurants, retailers and markets. Chris credits the knowledge and expertise of wild mushroom foraging passed on by his parents and his finance studies as colliding forces that have enabled and ensured the success of Autumn Harvest.
For the first two years of its existence, Autumn Harvest was restricted to a contact building and regulatory incubation period, eventually gaining the accreditation required to ensure the supply of native wild produce to other businesses that met rigid OHS, HACCP regulations.
The nature of making your living from a wild crop means when mushrooms are in season (early autumn-early spring), business is intense. The mushroom season is extremely unpredictable in terms of supply, and the amount of mushrooms collected is heavily dependent on adequate climate conditions in just the right regions of Victoria. Humidity, degrees celsius and rain play a large role in what mother-nature provides each year. Chris deals with these unknowns by keeping a keen eye on weather patterns and forecasting the duration of the season, employing additional or less contracted staff dependent on the expected supply and demand.
In season Autumn Harvest is a demanding 20 hours a day, seven days a week job. A five am wakeup, followed by long road trip to the forest of the day is punctuated by breakfast on the go, answering enquiries and checking forecasts. Chris spends four to five hours in the forest collecting the wild produce, before the long drive back to Melbourne. And yet the day is not over, sorting mushrooms, allocating boxes and organizing collection and drop-offs into the early hours of the following morning.
Off season is August onwards until summer where I begin preparing for the next season. Given the intensity of work during the season, I tend to spend the summer months relaxing. I love nature and the outdoors. Fishing for snapper in South Australia, camping and travelling! ~ Chris
Want – learning or opportunity? Opportunity for capital investment in cultivating new native species in a farmed environment
Need – apprentice or expert? In a few years’ time, we will look for active investors in horticulture to invest in new production initiatives
Favourite place in the world? Anywhere wild
Listening to? the Arctic Monkeys
Superpower? Super Mario intuition to find mushrooms where no one else has ever ventured!
Friends of Autumn Harvest
Cecconi’s Cantina, Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder, Bridge Road, Richmond
Find Autumn Harvest
autumnharvest.com.au for tour details and recipes