Freedom of the woods

  • Bill Knight


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Bill Knight is a 42-year-old mushroom harvester and buyer from Shelton, Wash. He got his start 10 years ago, and is a member of the Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters, a group providing a unified voice for the Northwest forest harvesters.

"Someone takes you under their wing. Two guys were going to go out to pick mushrooms and they took me with them. I didn't know anything about the woods when I started. I was a cashier in a store, too many jobs in too many places. I've since discovered I'm not really that good of an employee. You have the freedom in the woods. You can sit around if you want. You can run around the woods screaming if you want.

"The public is being led to believe these multicultural people are making money hand over fist. The words "gold rush" only apply to the height of the matsutake mushroom harvest. Sixty dollars a pound is not unheard of. But that's not the standard.

"Harvesters are an easy target. They're virtually defenseless. It's easy to find work in this field because you don't have to speak English. All you need is a rudimentary understanding of the dollar bill."

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