Institute for Sustainable Foraging joins the Newman’s Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge

Tile_Newmans_v1Institute for Sustainable Foraging (ISF) has joined the Newman’s Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge, a fundraising competition on CrowdRise, the largest crowdfunding platform for good. Newman’s Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge is a friendly fundraising campaign for eligible US-based 501(c)3 charities. Participating organizations will compete for $500k in prize money. The Institute has joined the challenge on CrowdRise in hopes of raising money to support the launch of its Certified Sustainably Foraged Program.

Foraged foods such as ramps (wild leeks), fiddlehead ferns, a range of wild mushrooms, and other wild-crafted products are garnering wider recognition as tasty, versatile, seasonally aligned foods, and their popularity has increased dramatically. Demand from the finest chefs on both American coasts and major cities in between, is contributing to an exponential rise in foraging of these forest products.

The Newman’s Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge launched on CrowdRise on November 21, 2017 at 12pm ET and runs through January 3, 2018 at 1:59:59pm ET. There are 10 grand prizes up for grabs with the team that raises the most online winning $150,000 and 10th place winning $2,500. On #GivingTuesday an additional $85,000 will be awarded to the top 3 charities. Plus, weekly Bonus Challenges enable charities to win up to another $115,000.

CrowdRise Challenges are innovative fundraising competitions for charitable organizations designed to build capacity, create massive engagement and leverage, and use the power of the crowd to provide new meaningful funding streams for organizations in every sector.

To help the Institute for Sustainable Foraging win the Newman’s Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge head here.

The rise in popularity of foraged goods continues unabated, driven both by the enthusiasm of personal foragers who enjoy the experience of gathering unique woodland foods and the desire of chefs to work with seasonal and genuinely “American” ingredients. This increase in foraging continues to raise questions about the sustainability of these wild food resources, particularly in cases where they are not being harvested according to known best practices for protecting their ongoing role in our forest ecosystems and the great American cookbook.

The Institute for Sustainable Foraging was established in response to these growing concerns. We have endeavored to combine the best available science with the deepest field experience and observations in order to create a “Certified Sustainably Foraged” program. This program allows consumers and foragers alike who have an interest in the conservation of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to build a culture of responsible use with the legacy of these unique and storied foods at its heart. For more information, visit

Newman’s Own Foundation is celebrating 35 years of giving and $500 million to thousands of charities, helping millions of people. As Paul Newman would say, “giving back is just the right thing to do.”

Newman’s Own foundation was founded by the late actor Paul Newman to continue his philanthropic legacy and help make the world a better place. The Foundation turns all net profits and royalties from the sale of Newman’s Own food and beverage products into charitable donations. For more information, visit

CrowdRise is the world’s largest crowdfunding platform dedicated exclusively to charitable fundraising. Used by millions of individuals, tens of thousands of charities, hundreds of companies and many of the most famous artists and athletes in the world, CrowdRise enables people to creatively leverage their resources and networks to unlock the power of the crowd to support positive social missions and create massive impact.

Founded by actor Edward Norton, film producer Shauna Robertson and Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe, CrowdRise has conceived, implemented and powered campaigns that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to date. For more information visit In January 2017, CrowdRise merged with GoFundMe to offer both people and organizations the best fundraising tools for any cause they care passionately about.

National Study of Ramps Adds Additional Northern Michigan Sites

Northern Michigan has added additional sites in Benzie, Leelanau and Wexford counties to a national study of ramps/wild leeks that is being conducted through a partnership with Virginia Tech, the U.S. Forest Service and the Institute for Sustainable Foraging. The study, the first of its kind conducted in multiple states, is designed to examine the long-term impact of ramp harvesting on plant populations in an effort to better understand what methods and other factors may be necessary to insure the sustainability of plant populations over time. In addition to revisiting research sites established last year, the partners added sites on the Huron-Manistee National Forest, a Leelanau Conservancy Preserve and a woodlot owned by Food For Thought.

Dr. Michelle Baumflek, an Ethnobotanist, along with Dr. James Chamberlain, a Research Forest Products Technologist, both from the Southern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service, have been engaged for the last two weeks in revisiting and establishing study plots in northern Michigan where ramps have been traditionally and will continue to be harvested for commercial purposes. These sites will also be studied in subsequent years to examine the effect that foraging may have on plant populations, density, size and other factors in an effort to determine how they may be sustainably harvested.

Recording Ramp Data

“While trained as a traditional forester, it didn’t take long for me to take an interest in all the other products, aside from timber, that our forests produce and that people find useful,” says Dr. Chamberlain, “Being close to Appalachia, ramps were of particular interest due to their long role in the culture of the people of that area. I’ve been studying them for over 15 years now and we still need more specific botanical information. This study will help to get that.”

Dr. Baumflek spoke to her excitement of seeing the prolific nature of the ramp patches in northern Michigan. “In North Carolina, where I’ve been doing much of my work, ramps rely on altitude and other unique factors to grow, make their distinct areas smaller and more confined than here in this part of Michigan. It’s amazing to see such large and healthy populations of ramps covering the forest floor in a given area like you have here in Michigan.”

The research will also help to inform the Standards and Practices for the Institute’s “Certified Sustainably Foraged” program.


In reviewing what little research exists in regard to ramps/wild leeks, their habitat and their reproduction in the wild, a recurring theme emerged. A number of researchers, enthusiasts, foragers and foresters frequently mentioned garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata) in some context. Often, they were simply making the reader aware of the invasive nature of garlic mustard, and the fact that, while it is entirely edible, and some people find it quite satisfying as a foraged food, it is also a fiercely invasive and non-native species which has been known to entirely cover the forest floor crowding out virtually all native plant species in the process.

Green forest canopy with white Garlic Mustard flowers

Green forest canopy with white Garlic Mustard flowers

You might ask how a plant could be so damaging to the natural environment and why it can so readily take hold of a given area and crowd out all of it’s native “competitors?” Garlic mustard is a plant in the mustard family that is native to Europe, west Asia, parts of NW Africa and a few other areas including western China. The plant is considered allelopathic, meaning that it exudes chemicals that repress the growth of most other plants. This feature is not uncommon for some of our country’s other non-native and invasive species such as spotted knapweed. However, because garlic mustard loves the forest floor, there is probably no single greater threat to the natural plants of that ecosystem such as the spring ephemerals we all love including trillium, trout lily, and wild leeks/ramps.

While ironically, both wild leeks/ramps and garlic mustard have names that  refer back to their garlic-like smell and taste – “allium/alliaria”, they seem to have a less than symbiotic relationship. In fact, multiple observers of the forest floor will tell you that where you find high density, healthy area of ramps, you rarely if ever find garlic mustard. The question remains as to whether or not this is due to some resistance that ramps might show to the allelopathic elements exuded by the garlic mustard plant, or if it’s simply the result of forest areas that have not been disturbed in a manner that garlic mustard has been allowed to be introduced.

In contrast, a forest floor covered in a blanket of ramps.

In either case, the suggestion is that areas of high quality and sufficiently dense ramp populations seem to guard against the invasion of garlic mustard. Given the damaging nature of garlic mustard on native forest plants, a better understanding of this relationship is certainly worthy of investigation. Regardless of the reason, should a means by which to discourage the introduction of garlic mustard be discovered, it could be enormously helpful in the fight to eradicate this plant’s damage to our forest environments. Further, should allelopathic elements of some yet unknown source be inherent in ramps (allium triccocum) that guard against the invasive nature of garlic mustard, then further scientific investigation of those properties could lead to a natural means to eradicate garlic mustard or at least to help to eradicate it and the extreme damage its known to inflict on once healthy forest ecological communities throughout the country.

The Institute plans to begin research in this area by establishing test plots where a variety of relationships between ramps and garlic mustard occur and begin to further investigate this apparently unique relationship.