Industry Voices: Forest to Fork’s George McCorkell
George McCorkell, center, with his bluegrass, folk band, The May North.
George McCorkell is 37 years old, feeling 60, he said in late June, just days before his third child was due to enter the fray, joining his 2- and 4-year olds. His job doing sales for Forest to Fork was picking up, thanks to the reopening of Keg and Case Market in St. Paul, but his 16-year career of teaching guitar, most recently through community education, was a victim of the pandemic.
His musical career—he and his wife and a buddy are in a band called The May North—however, is back on track now that the Forest to Fork booth in Keg and Case’s parking lot is hosting live music. “Mike (Kempenich) likes me be the entertainment whenever we do an event,” he says about the owner of Forest to Fork, a wild-foods grocer specializing in foraged foods, especially mushrooms.
“I thought at one time we’d be a traveling musical family,” McCorkell says, “but it’s a tough row to hoe. It’s a grind.”
Selling and educating people about mushrooms, however, is a “super interesting job, super demanding, I’d say." They have six full-time employees, and when you’re a small business, everyone has to do everything. "This is my favorite product to sell," he says about Forest to Fork. "I can feel good about it.”
McCorkell was introduced to the job when he sent Kempenich, who is known as the Gentleman Forger, pictures of mushrooms he found in the woods and asked him what they were. The correspondence was via Facebook and that’s when McCorkell noticed Kempenich had posted a job opening.
McCorkell's band has produced four original albums over the years. “I’ve written hundreds of songs,” he says. “A lot are traditional themes, traveling and heartbreak, a couple whiskey songs in there. Nothing too heavy.”
A lot of the songs, he adds, are collaborations with his wife. “We’ve been married for 10 years, and I said to her, you’re going to have to give me more grief so I can write some songs,” he says.
Combining a career in foraging and music isn’t as unrelated as the two may seem at first blush.
“When you travel on the road, people would put you up or you camp and cook over a fire,” he said. “A bass player took me out and showed me my first morel. You have your shows in the evening, then we’d find somewhere cool to go foraging.”
Sounds like not finding morels may be the only heartbreak left to write about.