An entrepreneurial spirit

  • Yan Saeteurn

 

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

Each fall, Yan Saeteurn hitches a camper trailer to his V-6 Toyota pickup at his home in Redding, Calif., and heads four hours north to what is the locus of the matsutake mushroom harvest. There, near Crescent Lake, Ore., he builds a small wooden shack, sets up a scale and waits for the pickers to emerge from the forest at day's end to sell their matsutakes. Some speak English, but others might do business in Chinese, Thai, Lao or Iumien; Saeteurn speaks them all. In a competitive business - the roads outside Crescent Lake are lined with 50 buyers with stands like Saeteurn's - his fluency in the mother tongues is an advantage. He's a businessman, after all. Before brokering mushrooms, he owned a used-car lot.

This is a different life for Saeteurn, who was raised in a family that grew rice and corn in his native Laos without the aid of a tractor or even an ox. After fleeing his village, he lived in an urban refugee camp in Thailand for 10 years, where he worked as a translator for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Now 33, Saeteurn is married with five children. When he's not buying matsutakes in the Oregon woods, he runs his own slaughterhouse in Redding, slaughtering about 10 hogs a day. In this way, he and his wife, who works in a laundry, support their family.

Brokering mushrooms is a tumultuous line of work, he says. A pound of prime matsutakes might sell for $60 or it could plunge to just a few dollars, depending on the season.

And news reports of "Old West-style" violence in the forest over the past few years are true, Saeteurn says. "Shooting during the night, going boom, boom, boom. A lot of theft going on."

But today there are more law enforcement officers in the national forests and mushroom picker camps, and Saeteurn has a security that used to be missing. "I used to carry a gun," he says, "but I prefer not to carry a gun."

High Country News Classifieds
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.