Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 22.05.2006

Berry picking is one of the most popular outdoor pursuits

The number of berry pickers is likely to reduce

Rural people are keener berry pickers than city dwellers, but urban people who own a cottage in the countryside pick berries almost as eagerly as their rural neighbours. Young adults pick berries less than older ones, but women are more active than men.

Recreational berry picking is still one of the most popular outdoor pursuits in Finland. More than a half (56%) of adult Finns go berry picking, on average, seven times per year. Rural people are more ardent berry pickers than city dwellers, but urban people who own a cottage in the countryside pick berries almost as eagerly as their rural neighbours. There seem to be clear generation-related differences in adopting berry picking as a hobby. Young adults pick berries less than older ones, whether they live in towns or in the countryside. Women are more active berry pickers than men. Education or income has no effect on the level of enthusiasm. The number of times that people go berry picking relates to whether they live in the countryside or have a holiday cottage at their disposal. People who live in large cities and those who do not have regular use of a holiday home are the least interested in berry picking. A young urban man, who does not have access to a holiday home, is likely to go berry picking with a 27% probability. In contrast, an older (aged 60-74) rural woman, or one who does have the use of a holiday cottage, is likely to go berry picking with an 87% probability.

For researchers these figures describing recreational berry picking indicate the beginnings of a change. In some other countries, e.g. in Sweden and the USA, a declining trend has been observed in activities that utilize forest nature, such as hunting and berry picking. The fact that young adults take less interest in berry picking than the older generations is much explained by urbanization as well as partly by variation in interests of different age groups. Of the young people, more than 80% admit that they know how to pick berries, which means that in their childhood they have learned to distinguish edible berries and they know where to look for them. However, it is likely that in the future there will be fewer berry pickers than today. Holiday cottages have an important role from the point of view of ensuring a positive future for recreational berry picking: at the cottage children can learn the skills of berry picking with guidance from their mothers and grandmothers. The forests in the surroundings of holiday cottages have an important role of their own in passing on this tradition: if there are no forests with berries nearby, these important skills may be left unlearned and the enthusiasm for berry picking will not be passed on.

The aim of this recent study was to clarify the socio-economic factors behind recreational berry picking and how frequent it is.

The study was a joint project between MTT Agrifood Research Finland and the Finnish Forest Research Institute.

Publication: Pouta, E., Sievänen, T. and Neuvonen, M. Recreational Wild Berry Picking in Finland - Reflection of a Rural Lifestyle. Society and Natural Resources, 19: 285-304, 2006.

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