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
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...