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As we await news from the School District, I figured I would finally post about my experience at Fungi Perfecti’s Mushroom Cultivation Seminar in November.

                                       Jim oyster kit demo                        

I decided to attend the seminar for three reasons- to learn how to run a mushroom farm, to meet my hero Paul Stamets, and to come home with 10 commercial strains (itself worth more than the pricetag of the seminar).  Over two days, I filled a notebook with the kinds of tips that one  accumulates after years of trial and error in the business- invaluable tidbits which will undoubtedly pay off when it comes time to construct and run our facility.  Paul led about half of the lectures- he basically took the material he covers in many of his public addresses and elaborated extensively upon it.  If you’ve been searching for updates on the fantastically important work that Paul and his collaborators have been conducting since Mycelium Running, the seminar is pretty much the only place where you’ll find it, and his presentation is rife with stories- plus if you have any questions, ask Paul himself.

                                           FP blue oysters

The lectures and workshops led by the other mycologists at FP were excellent too.  Jim Gouin and David Sumerlin drew from their extensive knowledge of running both large-scale and small-scale projects, and their presentation style was clearly well-polished..  While the skills practiced in the workshops were definitely geared towards beginners (cloning,spore-swabbing, transferring on agar, inoculating spawn bags, etc.), it was nonetheless useful to see how the masters do it, and I’ve adjusted my practice accordingly.  (Is this post starting to sound like a review?)

                                         FP lions mane and shitake

There were at least four other FP employees working behind the scenes at any given time to make things run smoothly, and they concocted two delicious lunches- is that surprising?  Lunch proved to be a source of new information as well.  For example, cooking lion’s mane in butter and adding some greens at the end really brings out the crab-like taste of the mushroom.  I had a great time schmoozing with fellow cadets over mugs of medicinal tea as we huddled away from the persistent rains between activities.  Although there wasn’t time to talk extensively with everyone, many of those I managed to chat with are doing really interesting things- some had plans to start mushroom farms or to add a mushroom facility to their existing farm.  Even more were simply following their newfound passion for fungi.  One attendee (who also happened to be a recent FP hire- they send all employees through the seminars) writes an excellent blog.  I highly recommend it for those who are into herbalism and natural remedies.

As the seminar came to a close, a rare windstorm blew up and I had a chance to pick Paul’s brain as I shone a cell-phone light under the hood of his car, keeping an ear out for cracking limbs in the vicinity.  No groundbreaking insight into cultivating chicken mushrooms, but it was a treat to talk with the man who owns 40 patents which contain the keys to the survival of our species.

            Amanita Muscaria redcap             polypore WA

I spent the following 5 days trekking around the Olympic Peninsula and other parts of the NW coast.  The rain let up for almost a full day and the sun peeked out as I was foraging parasol mushrooms in Volunteer Park in Seattle.  I saw Duncan Trussell perform two comedy sets (it was great, but really there’s no point in seeing the same comedy set twice in a row- lesson learned), and spent Thanksgiving on the cliffs of  Cannon Beach overlooking the Pacific.  That part of the world is breathtaking and it was tough to leave the grandeur of towering Douglas Firs, but I was happy to dry off in the unseasonably warm Philadelphia weather.

                 delicious parasols- Chlorophyllum Rachodes or similar

                                           Cannon Beach, OR

It wouldn’t be fair to sing the praises of Paul and the folks at FP for their pioneering work in mycology without giving props to another master who’s put his knowledge out there for the sake of helping amateur and start-up mushroom projects.  If you’re interested in getting started with a home mushroom project, I’d highly recommend Marc R. Keith’s super-affordable video series, Let’s Grow Mushrooms!   Then save up for the FP Seminar.

Oh, and check out Amanda Feifer’s blog, Phickle.com, to read about my adventures seeking the wild Kombucha SCOBY and while you’re add it, sign up for her fantastic blog which covers everything fermented!  She also leads occasional workshops in Philly for phermentation phriendly pholks.

                                          scoby?

Last week, we submitted our proposal to Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to build a mushroom facility on an existing park maintenance site near Saul.

You can read it here:

Mushroom Facility Proposal

thanks to Jim Gouin from Fungi Perfecti (whom I met at the Stamets Seminar) for enlightening me with his knowledge of designing mushroom facilities.

Parks and Rec reviewed the proposal and recommended instead that we build on land leased to Saul.  It’s unclear at this time if this is a viable option, as we had previously decided against building on Saul for several reasons.

We’ll keep on fighting for a site near Saul.  This would be an opportunity for students  to gain hands on experience within an important field of agriculture- one which has major implications for the health of people and planet.  We have other options, but would be thrilled to do this in Philadelphia with Saul, the Park, and the citizens of the city as our neighbors.

students big lycoperdon