Wild plant gathering becomes again a popular and fashionable activity in Europe after gathering practices have been increasingly abandoned over the last decades. Recent ethnobotanical research documented a diversity of gathering practices from people of diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds who gather in urban and rural areas. Few efforts were though made to study the motivations for gathering wild plants and to understand the resurgent popularity of wild plant gathering. This paper addresses the following research questions: (1) which motivations activate wild plant gatherers? (2) which motivation-types of gatherers exist in the Grosses Walsertal? (3) how do the motivations for gathering relate to the socio-demographic background of gatherers?
Field research was conducted in the Grosses Walsertal, Austria in the years 2008 and 2009 in two field research periods. Thirty-six local farmers were first interviewed with semi-structured interviews. The motivations identified in these interviews were then included in a structured questionnaire, which was used to interview 353 residents of the valley. Pupils of local schools participated in the data collection as interviewers. Principal Component Analysis was used to categorize the motivations and to identify motivation-types of wild plant gatherers. Generalized Linear Models were calculated to identify relations between motivations and the socio-demographic background of gatherers.
The respondents listed 13 different motivations for gathering wild plants and four motivations for not gathering. These 17 motivations were grouped in five motivation-types of wild plant gatherers, which are in decreasing importance: product quality, fun, tradition, not-gathering, income. Women, older respondents and homegardeners gather wild plants more often for fun; older respondents gather more often for maintaining traditions; non-homegardeners more frequently mention motivations for not gathering.
The resurgent popularity of wild plant gathering comes along with an internalization of motivations: the main motivations for wild plant gathering changed from the external extrinsic motivation of gathering because of necessity towards the internalized extrinsic motivation of gathering for the highly esteemed product quality and the intrinsic motivation of gathering for the pleasure of the activity itself. This internalization of motivations supports the persistence of wild plant gathering, a positive self-perception of gatherers and good quality of engagement with wild plant gathering.