• The Morel Mushroom Industry in Alaska: Current Status and Potential

      Wurtz, Tricia; Wiita, Amy Lynn (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2004)
      Morel mushrooms (Morchella spp.) collected in the U.S. Pacific Northwest are a non-timber forest product with considerable economic significance. Little information exists on the commercial harvest potential of morel mushrooms in Alaska’s boreal forest. We investigated current uses of morels in Alaska, the potential for and constraints to development of an Alaska morel industry and potential resource management and business development implications. We found that the morel mushroom industry in Alaska is small with few morel harvesters. Morels are harvested for personal and commercial use. Commercial morel harvesting is minimal due to the inaccessibility and unreliable production of morels and the long distances to markets. Permits are rarely issued by state or federal land managers for morel harvesting. The high capital investment for buyers, delayed return on the investment, need for direct product-marketing and creative marketing skills and an inconsistent supply of morels are prominent reasons there are not more businesses involved in an Alaska morel industry. Alaska appears to be best suited for a dried morel industry and a limited fresh morel market near cities and in local communities where there is a demand in local restaurants. Dried morels from Alaska could be marketed creatively and developed as a small cottage industry that capitalizes on the existing unique opportunities in Alaska such as wild food production, tourism and organic and Alaska Native product marketing.