Welcome, welcome everyone. This is your host Alex door. You're listening to the mushroom revival podcast. We love mushrooms and fungi. And we love going down into a rabbit hole of the mushroom and fungal kingdom we bring on guests from all around the world to geek out with us. And today we have Alana. And she's tuning in from Thailand. How you doing? super jealous that you're there. Hello, everyone. Yeah, it's it's beautiful here. It's so amazing. And I'm happy to be out of Alaska for at least part of the winter. They're getting slammed right now with heavy snow and cold, cold weather. So yeah, I'm super excited to not be there at the moment.
So who is Alana Johnson and what is new Earth fungi?
Yeah, I am. So yeah, my name is Alana. I am a gourmet and medicinal mushroom farmer.
And mycologist I guess I could say that. I basically run a gourmet and medicinal mushroom farm in Juneau, Alaska. And I pretty much started my business and effort to bring a fresh source of cultivated mushrooms to Southeast Alaska.
Particularly for those unfamiliar with Southeast Alaska, a lot of our food is shipped in on a barge, and a lot of times the produce that arrives, it arrives in really poor condition. Sometimes it's spoiled by the time it reaches the grocery store.
That includes our mushrooms. So it's great to have like a source of fresh mushrooms to provide like to my community.
And what's the mushroom scene like in Alaska? Oh, it's it's huge. Actually, it's kind of amazing that there aren't more mushroom farmers.
There's, we have a huge foraging scene. So that's something else that I do in my in my business is take people out on mushroom llores.
The mushroom diversity is just like insane. There. So there's a lot of people that are fascinated by fungi, but they don't necessarily they might not necessarily go out and pick them. But there's a lot of people that are very curious because they are everywhere.
What originally got you into mushrooms?
Oh gosh. Like, well, let's see over up over 10 years ago, I was living in Maryland actually. And a friend of mine was taking this permaculture course and they were learning how to grow shutter hotkeys on logs. And I just thought that was so interesting. And they were like, do you want to grow mushrooms on logs with me? And so? Yeah, I was like, Yeah, I want to see what that's like. So we were doing that and just from the moment of like, inoculation to like watching them grow. I was just like, blown away. And then it just I got spiraled down a rabbit hole of Fung Shui and like what they can do and all the medicinal benefits and the culinary benefits and even psychedelic benefits, like just so many different, different things.
Yeah, and it just kind of evolved from there. I had already been studying biology and so and my biology courses, I was just like, always so frustrated that we only kind of barely scratched the surface with like, learning about funghi. And so yeah, I just dedicated to like myself to studying more about them.
So you're in Thailand right now to escape the cold. So my next question is,
and you were talking about living in Maryland before so obviously you haven't spent your entire life in Alaska. Do you have family there? I mean, I have like what brought you there originally? Yeah, I have no family in Alaska. I see. I moved there and 2014. So it's been like, what nine years now? That I've been living in Alaska and I originally went
Because I got this like, volunteer gig to do environmental education with kids with the US Forest Service. And so that was just like, I was so excited and always wanted to go to Alaska. And so when I went, I was only supposed to be there for the summer season. And while while there and doing this outdoor education program with the kids, there were so many mushrooms everywhere, and it was just such a beautiful place. A lot of people don't know that SE is a temperate rainforest. And so it's very lush and green. There's, there's, you know, lots of forest and the ocean is right there. And there's glaciers, and there's just all of these different little micro climates. And so I was super excited. And then I was supposed to go back to Maryland. And I just, I went back to Maryland, and was there for two weeks and then was like, No, forget this. I'm moving back to Alaska. And so I got back on the plane and went back to Alaska. I had no job I had, like, nothing lined out. I had made some friends there from the summer. And then yeah, I like ended up living with one of my friend that I had made there. And and in exchange for rent, she had me raising chickens for her. And that's kind of like how it all started. And I've been there ever since. So
yeah, I'm originally from California. So I was in Maryland for school at the time. But I ended up transferring from the University of Maryland to the University of Alaska Southeast.
Cool. And I'm sure you know, this varies throughout all of Alaska. It's it's a really big place. But what is generally kind of the seasons in Alaska, like when it when are the best times to forage for mushrooms? And when is it just covered in snow and ice and you can't do anything?
I would say the best time to forage for mushrooms is around like late May and early June. And that will last all the way until like early October. And so our Yeah, our winter, like, it depends on the year. But typically our when our winter starts, it feels like in late October.
And then it lasts until about April or May.
We've had you know, we've had snow in May before and it's a real bummer for a lot of the residents there. Because we're like, Oh no, we're it's like supposed to be springtime and like we're ready for spring. And it seems like spring happens very quickly. And just like the month of like, May and June. And then we have this short window of summer. The days are really long. We get about 20 hours of daylight during the summer.
That's amazing. Like that's super fun. You know, you like go to work, you do your thing you like come get off of work, and you have time to go hiking and foraging and like climb a mountain still and come back early switches in the winter. And then it totally switches by like two in the afternoon. Know.
Yeah, and it's so uh, yeah, can be kind of depressing. So a lot of people tend to, like, go on vacation and go on long holidays. Yeah, I can. Do you ever happy lamp? I do. Yeah. When I lived in Massachusetts, I was like, my face was always within an inch of one happy lamp in the winter. It's like I couldn't do it. You know, it's just yeah. And I actually almost moved to
like, the Olympic region of Washington. And I just, everyone's like, Oh, it's just cloudy all the time. And I was like, looking at Oregon and the same thing and I was like, I can't do it. Yeah, I need sunshine, you know? And even in Austin like I'm it's just starting to get cold and we do you have kind of a winter and it's still like I'm looking for a place as sunny 365 Yeah, it does wonders on your mental health for sure. It does. Yeah. But the sensors are so worth it. It's just like yeah, like I love being in Southeast Asia during the summer there's I had another it's something about it. That's just like, This is so amazing. We Is it true that if you do
The State of Alaska pays you to live there isn't a thing. Yeah, it is a thing. Yeah, we every year we get what's called a permanent dividend fund.
And it's for every Alaska resident, it doesn't matter your age or whatnot. But yeah, every year that happens, and there's all kinds of debates back and forth, if they should keep it or get rid of it. Yeah, but it is a thing.
That's pretty nice. Yeah. And so when you go out foraging, do you have specific you know, mushrooms, herbs, things that you're looking for that are your favorites, or just kind of seeing, like how biodiversity talking? Oh, my gosh, from like beliefs to chanterelles, chicken of the woods. There's all types of conks there's, I mean, so many different varieties. Jelly fungus, that's usually like those are kind of like my go to cook just because I've been so fascinated by the jelly different types of jelly fungus lately. There's like an apricot jelly that I really love to make candy with. There's a great recipe and
the book all at the rain promises. Yeah, David Arar. Yeah, it's like, it's so good. So I tried to find those and chanterelles chicken of the woods. We have. We do have lion's mane.
What else is around? There is the sea last, this past summer, I found
this blue poly pour. And I had seen it quite a few times. And I was like, oh,
what like what is this because it was great. I had never really seen it that often. But I had seen it a few times. And it was like it only grows in this one area of the forest.
And I ended up identifying it. I was just I tried tasted it. It was so delicious. And I was with a group. And so some people took some home and they tried it and it's just really fun, like seeing like having the groups of people with me and foraging and identifying things. And then they always go home with like new things that they can try.
But yeah, it's just like amazing, sharing that space with other people in my community and visitors as well.
It's so weird, because for people, for most people that live in kind of mainland us, we kind of forget about Hawaii and Alaska a lot. Yeah. You know, it's like Alaska is a weird one. Because it's above Canada. You know, it's it's just in a very strange place. That I don't Yeah, it's just
yeah, it gets kind of left out a lot. Yeah, people forget that we're there. And it's so funny too, because like, I don't know, when I'm traveling or, or even when people are coming from like, because we get we have a huge tourism population that comes on cruise ships, and the summertime, and people will get off the ship. And they'll literally just be like, so like, you know, it's amazing to be in this. And in Alaska. We love this country.
Like, this is part of the United States. But um, yeah, it's really funny, like some of the things that people say it's hilarious. But yeah, we do get I feel like we do kind of get forgotten about a little bit. And I don't know some people like it. Some people don't, you know, don't mind it at all. I feel like a lot of Alaskans tend to,
like, want to feel like they're separated from the lower 48 states. So
And I saw on your Instagram, you spent some time in West Africa, studying mushrooms. How long ago was that? Where Where did you go and what was your experience? Like? I did so I went to this was like, gosh, it three or four years ago, I went to Sierra Leone night. And that was such a wild experience. Like they have so many mushrooms.
In the bush like if you're in like I stayed in a small village called yatta yatta and with a Muslim community, and it was both equally like amazing and very difficult.
I went there with the intention of
Of like, not only learning about the local funghi from the indigenous people there.
But there was a lot of things lost in translation as well with just with the language and
the culture. And so as a woman going there, it was very difficult because that country is pretty male dominant, and they have a lot of like,
I don't know, they don't allow women to do a lot of things. And so it was just really hard to be able to, like go out into the forest with a group or to have a say, and like what I wanted to do, and I wanted to give, I wanted to basically
utilize what was around like,
I wanted to basically teach the local women there how to cultivate mushrooms as a form of like women empowerment. And that was very difficult to do, because a lot of their husbands wouldn't allow them to participate in some of my activities.
Or they just thought that I was like, there to corrupt them, or something, I don't know, it was there was a lot of like power struggles there. But luckily, I had a friend there. And so that kind of made it a little bit easier to like, navigate and move around. Because
oddly, in that part of Africa, they really highly look up to white people. And so it for me, it was kind of like a culture shock, because in America, it's like kind of that like,
where they're kind of like praising like the white man. And you know what, what they say goes kind of saying, and what I say doesn't matter. So that was kind of challenging. But there's so many different species of funghi. And and I believe, too, that I could have discovered a fun, different type of fungus.
However, I wasn't allowed to bring it back with me. And I got a lot of my things comp and skated at the airport. Oh, no.
Yeah. And what has your experience been as a black woman, Farmer and forger here in the United States?
I find it to be like, very rewarding. Honestly, like, I feel like for my community, at least I a lot of people really value what I do. And I'm constantly getting messages and people coming up to me, whether it's at the farmers market, or in the grocery store, or even just on the street, like telling me how much they're appreciative of like what I'm doing in the community, and
they, they love my mushrooms, they think they're beautiful, they think, you know, they, they're delicious. And so that really feels that feels really good.
Something that I find to be difficult as a black mushroom farmer, I feel like there aren't like, enough resources for what I am doing as a farmer in general.
I know like, it's been really difficult, just getting basic things that I need, like equipment wise for a commercial scale, to be a commercial skill.
Business and, and especially to southeast with
our geographical location and being landlocked. I mean, you can only get to Juneau by boat or plane. So that makes
getting transportation just really difficult sometimes getting what I need up there. You have Amazon Prime to drop off.
We do have Amazon Prime, it's not cool. Yeah, we do. It's not as fast. Okay, the lower
but we do have it and yeah, just I don't know, just like larger pieces of equipment like sterilizers and things like that. Yeah, can be really challenging to like, get to where I need them.
And then just like services from like the USDA, like, can be re a little challenging as well. Yeah.
go ahead. Do you feel like I mean, it might be hard maybe compared to Marilyn because California is pretty laid back. But in general, do you feel like people are more relaxed or are slower paced.
where you're at? Oh, where I live, it's definitely slower paced. If I was in California and Maryland, I think it would be a pretty like busy like fast moving kind of
Yeah, and I,
where I'm at to there's not a lot of like, diversity with just it with people I guess. And in general and we we have a very rich indigenous culture, a different cultures in in Alaska in general.
But there's not a lot of black people. And so when I, I want to be able to share what I do with other people, black people and other people of color, just bipoc people in general.
But I find that kind of challenging. And I think it's because for a long time, like people of color, especially black people haven't felt welcome in nature or in natural spaces. I mean, even the few of us that are living in Southeast Asia, I've met some people that don't feel comfortable going outside because there's bears or there's, you know, they're afraid of different things. And it's interesting, because they live in Alaska, where like, you know, that those things are there. But yeah, it's just I think it's because we're in such a white dominant space that it can be difficult for people to feel comfortable, and spaces like that. So that's something that I'm trying to change. It hasn't been very easy. But I the majority of people who do come to my forays are late and not that there's anything wrong with that. But I would love to expand the diversity and the people participating in my forays.
Totally what would you wish
would be available? For new people starting out that you wish? If you could rewind time a year ago, five years ago, you know what, what resources or structure would you want
to be in place for people to have a better introduction to mycology, forging etc.
I feel like part of that kind of goes back to like education, I feel like I really wish that there were more programs like educational programs, even just in schools, whether that's like, you know, an elementary schools and high schools, universities, resources for
people of color to just like,
have a an introduction to these spaces, and maybe even like, yeah, a way for them to feel comfortable. And I think that kind of goes, I feel like that's kind of like where I'm like the path that I'm on right now is like I want to do more outreach and the schools just to get more people interested from an earlier start, or maybe even just from like an academic start, because I mean, a lot of people spend a lot of time in school already. So
I think that is like probably the best outlet that I wish I had that. I wish I had a mentor when I was in university, it was actually kind of wild, like being a biology student and in Alaska at that, and in this lush like environment, and not one of my professors knew very much about mushrooms, or fungi in general. And and so I thought that was just really interesting how it's not really talked about or really known, and they're still like this, like myco phobia
with that whole topic in general. So yeah, I just wish that there were more of that available.
Totally. Yeah, I feel like there is a cultural shift happening, especially in the United States, but worldwide, um, or most of the world with the introduction of like, fantastic fungi, for example, just a lot of like cultural impacts that shift people's minds. Or even like Michael Pollan's book, you know,
whether we're talking about psychedelics or not, but just, you know, viewing these natural fungi or plants as like, oh, you know, I've never thought of you before and you know, I'm going to think of you
in a different way.
And, you know, just, I think it's helping and I'm seeing a lot more people talking about them and appreciating them. And I think just more people making really incredible
media, whatever form that is, or taking people out in the woods, whatever your kind of skill set is, I think the more the merrier. And I'm, I am curious, because Hawaii, I think it I mean, sorry, Alaska is the third least white populated US state. And I think it's like, I know, Hawaii is like, 25% white people. And I think Alaska is like, I don't know, I was just looking at it earlier. I can't remember the number on top of my head, but
for the Alaska, Alaskan Native people that live in Alaska, have you?
Have you done much research or talk to any groups on their relationship with fungi? And
is there is there much history there? With indigenous practice with fungi in Alaska? Yeah, so it's a good question. Yeah. So in where I live, I live on clink it on me, that's the, that's the land who the people, the cricket people, they, that's their land that I reside on.
And I have spoken with them and asked about historical relationships with fungi. And they don't have very many, honestly, because they're in their culture, they haven't really done a lot of
things with funghi. I know that, you know, they now they pick things that they they're able to identify and whatnot, but like, historically, they didn't really pick a lot of mushrooms, because they just didn't know
if they were poisonous or not.
And so yeah, I've, I've been they've actually, I've had a few
members of certain clans come to me to ask about teaching them mushroom cultivation, and, and doing more foraging, more forays with their communities.
And so I'm really I look forward to that, and really excited about that.
And it really surprised me that, at the time, when I was asking, and looking for mentorship, just in local funghi, at the time, that there they didn't really have much knowledge about the mushrooms, they're very knowledgeable about so many other organisms, different plants and
animals and whatnot. But with funghi Yeah, it was it was lacking and in that area, so I thought that was very interesting. But in other parts of Alaska, there are indigenous populations that have been using funghi for gosh, 1000s of years, hundreds of years. Hundreds of 1000s of years. So yeah. Especially with like, some of the populations a little further north.
collecting things like Morales and
King beliefs and, and those those sorts of mushrooms. Yeah. Do you have a mushroom on your bucket list that you know is in Alaska and you haven't found it yet? You've been looking?
Oh, gosh. What have I been looking for? Let's see.
Well, this match I do want to find it doesn't grow in Juneau so I can't really I'm not going to find find it there. But Chaga I do want to find wild Chaga I think that would be so cool. And I would have to go up north where all the birch trees are to find that but I would love to have birch by you. Now. Now. It doesn't grow where we're in southeast. Wow. Interesting. So that that grows in like more of like north central Alaska. So like Fairbanks area
anywhere around there, basically.
Cool. That's awesome. And you're in Thailand now, how long have you been there? I've been here for gosh, like two and a half weeks now. Okay. Yeah, too. I hope you've gone out. Foraging already. Right? I haven't gone out foraging. I haven't
I haven't gone out foraging yet. That's like on my list of things to do. Are you chillin on the beach? Or you work out? What are you doing? No, I'm just enjoying like walking around and being in the sun. I actually it's my birthday today. Why I say? Yeah. So yeah, I have many rotations around the sun. I 3535. That's a great number. Yeah, happy birthday. That's, yeah. Yeah. It's so funny, because I booked this and I forgot that it was my birthday.
How are you celebrating? How have you celebrated today? Wait, what time is it? There? It is. 8:49am. Oh, beautiful. So you have the rest of the day? Yeah. So far. I went on an elephant excursion just like a private one. And it was so already already. Yeah. Wow. Okay, what's up? I guess it's weird the time change, but I went yesterday. Yes. Oh, hell yeah. Sweet. Yeah. That was like so fun. Like just walking them and went for a swim with them. It's like, oh, yeah, I'm just, you know, going for a swim with the elephants. No big deal.
Yeah, it was just felt so surreal. It's awesome.
Well, Thailand is one of the best places to find Cordis ups in the world.
And if you want I have a contacts that set up a whole cordyceps lab in Thailand. And he's not running it anymore. But his one of his colleagues is I don't know where in Thailand, but I can look after this and put you in contact with them. It's on my bucket list. I just want to spend like at least a month in Thailand, just going out for like eight hours a day looking for corsets and just geeking out. So yeah, so I'm mad that you haven't gone out yet. Yeah, I know. I'm gonna go out. I'm in the north. So if you do come like I recommend, like exploring Northern Thailand. I know a lot of people like to go to Chiang Mai and Chiang Mai is awesome. There's, you know, it's like a big city. But in pi. It's like the natural world. It's like jungle and farms. And just Oh, yes. So great. And that's where I'm at. So I'm hoping to get that in at some point. While I'm here. I still have a while to be here. So I'm excited. You said a month more or a month in total. So you have a couple more weeks. It's more like a month and a half. Yeah. Nice. So I have like maybe three weeks. Yeah.
And I heard that your mushroom farm back home just caught on fire.
Are you intentionally trying not to think about mushrooms and you're just like just
walking around in Thailand and oh, my gosh, so yeah, that was like awful. It was such an awful experience. And it was devastating. I lost all of my mushrooms. It was an electrical fire that was not expected and just kind of
Yeah, it just like it just started like the room just caught on fire. And I felt like someone was striking me down because I'm like, how do How did this even happen? But yeah, I lost like the whole thing just like everything caught on fire and was destroyed and thankful. I'm so thankful for my my partner, my life partner.
He helped me get everything back up and running. And we just were like, okay, the fire happened now we just have to deal with it. So we went out and bought new materials and got everything back up and running. And
yeah, it was. It was very devastating. Especially when you have like, you know, you spend time growing the mushrooms and then all of a sudden they're just they're just you thought trake would be your only problem
Oh my gosh, yeah. So besides that what has been the hardest time in building this mushroom farm and expanding your mike illogical career?
A hardest thing? Let's see. I think just so
are just getting. Okay. Right now currently the most difficult thing for me, I need to expand. And it's hard for me to do that because there's like limited space and Juno and everything is like so incredibly expensive. And so that's kind of you're scoping out places in Thailand right now.
It's very tempting.
It's very tempting. Life is short, you live it to the fullest. Although I could, I could totally see myself living here. It's so awesome. I feel like
I'll give it I'll give myself like 10 more years. But that's on my bucket list for sure. Yeah. Yeah, that's been that's been the hardest thing is just like expanding my business IT space wise, and making it feasible. And Southeast Alaska, because I mean, everything there is already, like, so expensive, so much more expensive than the lower 48 Just because of like, where we are and getting shipped there. It's just like, and then property is very just like through the roof right now. And I'm sure it's like that in most places.
Yeah, in the US. But yeah, that that's been the most difficult thing for me. So far. Are you thinking of moving?
I don't know. I mean, okay, I've thought about it. I have thought about it. I've thought about what it would be like to run a mushroom farm in other places I've thought about if it would even be feasible.
And yeah, I obviously like I've been in Alaska for quite some time now. And my partner and I both debated, like, should we stay here longer should be moved. Because we both equally like love getting out. During the winter. It's really difficult for us to be there during the winter. And during the winter, it's kind of like, business for me isn't as active there's, you know, not mushrooms, you can forage all year long there. So, yeah, it does. Things wind down in the winter time. And so I've even thought about like, expanding my business to another location and still keeping both keeping one, you know, the business in Alaska as well. Yeah, so there's options, but I have no idea what's going to happen. I guess we'll just have to see but
amazing, I'm excited for you. Yeah, it'd be a fun journey. And on the flip side, what has been the most rewarding time in your whole journey? It could be
you know, an award that you got, it could be just something a little more metaphysical, but what would you say is the your best time in your mushroom growing experience? Oh, it's been it's been many things but like something that really sticks out is just like the need, that there's a need for what I do and my community and people want it. And before I even started my business, that's kind of how I determined if I would even go this route or not, I pretty much scoped out if people would want something like this if grocery stores would want local locally cultivated mushrooms and then also just being just being where I am and in my knowledge with with funghi and feeling like there's still so much to learn has been really exciting.
I there's so many things that I want to do beyond just growing mushrooms you know, I've been looking into like the mushroom packaging industry and
just like using mushrooms is just like biomaterials in general. I think that's so cool. I had the opportunity to go to funghi Academy in Guatemala last year amazing there's so awesome there it's just so fun. It's so fun to see what people around the world are doing what's funky
Yeah, I've been meaning to go for so long. I've been to Guatemala once for like a couple days just like going over the border and it's it Yeah, it's a beautiful place and I I need to check out their their operation and spend time there. They seem like such great people and such great people go
Yeah, everyone that I talked to that have has gone said they have you know they meet they meet like
Next time friends when they go, so, yeah, good experience. Yeah.
Yeah, I highly recommend it if you go there, I feel like it would just just be in love. It's, it's so cool, like what they're doing and, and also just like learning that people can really cultivate mushrooms just about anywhere that's always like, continue to amaze me. Like even in the most unsterile of conditions like people are growing mushrooms and it's just like, wow, like you don't need all of the fancy equipment.
And to see people doing it successfully and
yeah, just hear does burn when you are using really nice equipment and you're still getting TRICARE. And then you see someone just like, just being extremely successful and like the worst conditions are like what?
Yeah, no, it's it's such a bird. But it's also like, it's so inspiring. I've seen people open inoculate outside, like on a pig farm. You know, I've seen people open inoculate with literally a dirty pig underneath them. You know, not Yeah, I feel like pigs get a bad rep. And I just hate to pig dirty analogies in a row. But
ya know, I've seen some crazy stuff that you know, people are like, really dirty, like people smoking a cigarette, while in front of a flow hood. No gloves, just doing it and like, zero contamination. I'm like, What the hell are you doing? Like your wizard? I can't do it.
Yeah, some people are just, they just I don't know. They're gifted or they're on just like a really good luck streak. Yeah, and yeah, they haven't been haven't been hit hit with the trike yet, or like, made some back backdoor deal with Trikha Derma, where they're paying a bribe. And
yeah, it's so funny. It's amazing, though. What, what future projects or goals do you have for the future?
right now, I just had just been like, in this business competition, for sustainability, and just like regenerative businesses for Southeast Alaska. And it's been really interesting, because I had to write a whole business plan. And, you know, when I started my business, I didn't even think about a business plan or anything like that. And this had to, like create this whole document that's like, all very detailed and formal. And that during the entire process, I was just thinking like, about how much I really just want to like, reach out to more youth and get them really fascinated with just mushrooms in general and funghi. And so I want to do more project related like nature based activities with kids and with young adults.
Just to get them more exposed and hopefully reach some bipoc communities as well.
What else? And
huh? Yeah, I just feel like, every time I think about anything relating to like, funghi I just have so many different ideas that I'm kind of all over the place, but I'm also like, currently studying biomimicry. Nice, I'm getting my masters and currently and nice, were amazing. Yeah, we're always like thinking about new ways we can
you know, human based challenges by asking nature, how nature does something like, you know, whatever function it might be. And so right now, I've just been thinking about like, how does nature like keep things sterile? And I think about the mushroom grow bags. And so I feel like that would be a kind of a cool project to like, take on to see like, How could my mushroom operation be a little bit more sustainable with
with, you know, the mushroom grow bags? I think that's been like a, a huge thing for a lot of large scale mushroom cultivators.
Especially with where I live. It's kind of hard to like do cultivation, I think, any other way.
Yeah, yeah. Or it's yeah, it's always like, the complication of scale, right? It's like
You can be more sustainable on a very small scale.
But you can't really pay your bills with it. Yeah. Which is the hard thing. And it's like, yeah, you could have like a little hobby thing. And you could grow out of reusable containers, and you can clean the containers and reuse them. You know, but it's like, okay, but I can't make a business out of that to pay my bills, and like, keep the lights on and put food on my table, which is important. And then, but then there's like, if you want to do like, the Japanese bato culture, it's like you need that is just a whole nother scale. So there's this awkward middle stage where you're like, I want to get to bottle culture, I want to get to the stage where I can be sustainable. But that is just, you need so much money to get there. Exactly, unfortunately. Yeah. And like, I mean, we're there with like packaging and stuff like that. It's like, sustainable packaging right now is so expensive. And a lot of times, it's not the best, you know, and like we're looking at compostable sachets, and it's like, the technology is just not there yet. And if it is there, it's like, the permeability is so bad that, you know, our products would go moldy really quickly. And we're just like, ooh, like, I don't want to risk. You know, tons and tons of product going moldy. It's like, that's the opposite of sustainable, you know, and then we get to throw away all of it or compost it.
Yeah, it's always the dilemma. And I think we're,
we're like, tickling the edge of have a breakthrough in in all these technologies across many different industries. And I'm excited to see hopefully, when when we get older, we can look back and be like, Wow, we had to do mushroom farming in this really bad way. But we all start somewhere. And, you know, at least you're being mindful of it. And I think, yeah, I think the more people that get into mushroom farming, and start looking at these solutions, the better. I always love talking to engineers getting into mycology, all the ingenious things that they come up with that are just like, oh, wow, yeah, it takes an engineer to, to think of all these innovations that save so much time and you know, things like that. So, definitely, yeah, but someone someone's got to crack the bag problem. I know. I know.
Yeah, that would be so awesome. Looking at your, your typical day, or, you know, typical week, month, whatever, what would you say are things that
you absolutely love doing? And if and if you could just,
you know, wave a wand and only do those things for me, like delete everything else, like what would those things be? And on the flip side, what are things that just are like nails on the chalkboard that just need to get done? Like, you know, like if I pour one more egg or dish
or whatever it is.
Oh, gosh, I love so I absolutely love taking people out on mushroom forests. I love being out in nature. I love doing all the educational Hell yeah, the things like that is like my thing. Like I love sharing that with people. I love seeing people really excited and curious and I love all their questions. I love all of that. Everything about that.
And in my cultivation, I love when I like go in my fruiting room and it feels like Christmas because I'm like What is what's what am I walk into now? That's really cool. I do enjoy working in my lab. I have a lot of fun by myself in my lab and like always just in there dancing and like oh yeah, stuff. But the one thing I cannot stand and I will probably end up hiring someone to do. This is like the whole processing of substrate. Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah.
Yeah. How do you do it now?
Oh, gosh, a shovel on the ground and mixing it up by hand or hey, yeah, like some of it's by hand some of it's with like a huge like mixer like one of those, like a ribbon mixer. Like one of those like concrete mixer things sweet. Yeah, that's great. I worked on a mushroom farm that didn't have anything and we were like, concrete floor shovels, just mixing it and that sucked. Yeah, we're
I always like try to get in conversations with the boss. So like, you know, you just like, yeah, we're trying to avoid it at all costs, but it breaks your back like you're doing that. Yeah, you're mixing. It's a lot of work. So a lot of work gets physically demanding on my body. Like, there's days in the week where like, my back hurts so bad. And I'm just like, uh, how did I get here? I feel old. But like, now that I'm in Thailand, I'm just taking advantage of all the time massages there. Oh, yeah. So cheap and glorious. Like I love it.
I heard I don't know if this statistic is how accurate this is. But it seems pretty accurate being in it is that mushroom farming is the second most labor intensive crop behind. I heard blueberries. And whenever I say this, people are like blueberries. And like, That's what I heard. So, but mushroom farming. Yeah, it not all, you know,
depending on what farm you go to some sometimes it's really automated. But
yeah, yeah, it's very intense on the body, for sure. Yeah, some people love it. And they're kind of like masochist. And they just like,
are like all about it. But yeah, I couldn't do it for too long.
And it's like, it's, it's, it's rewarding, you know, to like, feel your body super sore at the end of the day and see the mushrooms growing and be like I did that, you know.
But it's easy to burn out if you do it too much. For sure it is. Yeah, it is. And that's something I'm trying to find a balance with. Because currently I am the only operator. I wear all hats currently in my mushroom farm. And
yeah, I just need to get to the point where I feel confident to hire someone because I yeah, I did hire someone last year. And it was kind of unfortunate, like they contaminated everything that I had.
All over and yeah, so I I'm like, I've been really nervous about that. But that's something I just need to like, I just need to hire the right person.
To help me out. It is really interesting. Like, because most mushroom people are not business people, you know, and like, but most mushroom people. They're like, Oh my God, if I can pay my bills to do mushroom stuff all day, like, that'd be great. And then they get into it. And it's way less glorious than they think it's going to be. Yeah. And then yeah, but then it's like, no matter what industry, if you're a boss, and you're hiring employees 99.99% of the time, you know, they're not going to do it as well as you can do it. Right. Hopefully they can. Hopefully they do it a million times better than you can and they're way more passionate about it than you are. And if you find someone like that, hallelujah, that's amazing. But most of the time, it's like, that's your baby, you've been building it for however long and you know, you're wearing all the hats and you you deeply care about it. Right? And and
and so to find someone who you also deeply cares about this, this literal like, being that you're your birding, then yeah, it's it's really special. And it can be, it can be scary to let people into that process that you've been building and, you know, let the reins loose a little bit. And, yeah, it's been super hard for me to do over the years, and just kind of like it's been, it's been hard for my ego to let go. Yeah, you know, and like, know that things are, are taking way longer than, you know, if I stepped in and I did it or like, the quality's a little less than I would like or, you know, certain things and I have to just let it go and be like, well, at least I have a little bit more free time. I'm not burning out like I can step back a little bit. I can like have my sanity and my health. Yeah, so yeah. And which is way more important.
definitely way more important. Yeah. That's something that is like had to, like tell myself yeah, like, take a break. You can't do everything.
Yeah, that's been a real struggle.
It's hard. Yeah. And I would, I would totally agree with you that
going on forays with people. It's just unreal. Like I still remember the joy I had
At the end of my first foray, like how freaking aesthetic I was that someone paid me to do that. And it was like looking at the, the, I can't remember if it's a cheque or cash or what it was, but I was sitting in my car at the end of it. I was like, wait, wait, wait like this real, like, someone paid me money to like walk in the woods and look at mushrooms. Like, this is a joke, and then they rebooked me, and I'm like, I'm like laughing hysterically. I'm like, this is the best gig ever. Like, if I could do this forever, this would be the best thing in the world. Like throwing out in the woods, breathing fresh air and like geeking out about mushrooms and like, walking and talking about this thing I love in the woods. Like this is the greatest thing ever. Like, please. Everyone booked me to do this because Yeah, exactly. All I want to do. Yeah.
Where was your first mushroom foray? It was in Massachusetts. And it was like this. There was a college nearby. I don't know how they found me. But it was like, I can't remember what the club was. But it was like this college club. I think it was like an adventure club or something like that. So they did all these like, I think it was like an outdoor activity club or something like that. So they went like kayaking, they went hiking, they did all this stuff. And they wanted to go on a mushroom hike. And so I I brought them out a few times. And it was great. I loved it. How about you? Do you remember your first one?
Oh, my first foray?
Yeah, my first foray was actually in Alaska and southeast. I think that's right. Yeah. I started a mycology club when I transferred to the University of Alaska Southeast because I wanted to be out side with people like looking for mushrooms. And I wanted to see what other people knew as well. So I opened it to just not only the university students, but the community. And it turned out that it was like,
like, we had so many people, I had so many people
come to the event. And then I had to start putting, like,
limits on the number of people that were coming, because I would get like 50 people showing. Amazing. Yeah, we'd be on the trail. And I'm like, Ah, are we going to like, destroy everything? Like, like, but so then it just started to be like, smaller groups, because I didn't want like everyone just like, completely just picking everything. And then, you know, like, not doing anything with it. But
yeah, that was my first foray. And it was just like, I fell in love with that after that. It was awesome. Well, I'm, I'm praying for this new hire to lift off so much weight off your shoulders and time to allow you to take more people in the woods and help people connect them back to nature and bring more joy and lightness in your life and to help your back. Yeah.
Yeah, and so yeah, totally.
Oh, my gosh, back problems. Yeah. What other ways besides dancing in the lab and taking spontaneous trips to Thailand? How do you prevent yourself from burning out?
Um, I tend to I spend a lot of time outdoors actually. So I mean, even if I'm not foraging for mushrooms, I forage for other things.
Different types of plants and berries and things like that. But I also I love yoga. And what else do I do?
I'll play with my boy.
Yeah, nice. There's more. I feel like I do more. But I am drying up like I also we've mushrooms are pretty consuming, all consuming. So yeah, there's more.
There's more to life, are you? What do you mean?
Like what different types of species of mushrooms like I'm not sure.
I think I do more. Yeah.
No, I mean, there's other parts of my brain that I could use.
I do. Yeah, I switched. So far. My life has been literally like mushrooms like just everything with mushrooms and buy in, or biomimicry.
We'd like stuff with school and hell yoga and but yeah, other than that I something I love to do is just travel. So I try every winter to leave and go someplace last year was Guatemala, this year's Thailand?
Streak? Yeah, it's always fun to just be somewhere new for my birthday as well. So I've been trying to make it like a thing that I do now.
Are you going to have you been to Telluride ever? Now I have been wanting to go to that, that looks so fun. It's definitely a tree. It's definitely pretty expensive to get there and lodging and things like that you can camp
but it is I always like grit my teeth every year because because of the cost, but it's like so worth it. Every like leading up to it. I'm gritting my teeth. And then the second I arrive and looking back in it the rest of the year. I'm like that was the best that was like a highlight of my year. It's so good. Just like the community of people. You know, you're just surrounded by people that are obsessed with mushrooms just like you and just are as eager as you to get out in the woods and you know, eat mushrooms pick mushrooms be mushrooms, you know.
So it's great or any any gathering really, there's there's so many new ones popping up all over the world really? So. But that I think that one's my favorite for sure. Yeah, I'm I'm gonna let you go it is your birthday and you you are in a beautiful place. It's been such a treat to have you on the show.
Is there any final words that you want to share with the audience? Where can people follow you? How can people support the work that you're doing?
Yeah, any shoutouts Yeah, um, let's see. I people can follow me on Instagram that I think that's the best place I'm most active on there as New Earth fungi.
And let's see what else I'm sorry what was your other question?
Whatever you want to say Yeah, any Yeah, shout outs how people can follow you. Yeah, I just
really yeah shout out to all of the mushroom people out there any mushroom person I think it's a great what you're doing I think that
if you want to get into mushrooms and foraging like go on a mushroom for a come visit me in Alaska.
yeah, just like if you love mushrooms, continue to let us learn as much as you can about them, you will not be disappointed.
Amazing. Well, that's a wrap another episode down. And thank you for everyone tuning in and tuning in.
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Have and may the spores be with you
Transcribed by https://otter.ai