The end of Sunnyside Drive brought us to our home for the next two nights. We were welcomed by a delicious meal provided by an old friend and some collective music on the porch. Beyond a visit, the stop turned into a spectacular spread of music, food, dirt, and information sharing.
Pete & Ja (pronounced “J”) run a mushroom cultivation and education homestead in Eugene, OR which they call – appropriately — Fungi for the People. Their out-of-home business holds workshops and sells mushroom spawn for at-home cultivation of your own medicinal and culinary shrooms. Their property is also host to an extensive composting system and beautiful garden abound with vegetables to feed friends, work attendees, and residents.
We were to spend the next day in the garden, helping out with weeding out some beds along with finishing up a greenhouse project. The sun came out as the greenhouse project came to a close; spawn bags that were originally housed inside were finally being moved to the new structure.
We were lucky enough to get into a conversation with Ja about fungi and his passions. Ja is an endless source of fungal information, and he is an open book when it comes to passionate and knowledgeable discussion. “I’m self taught,” he explained after a long Q and A about mushroom reproduction and companion planting/sporulating ideas. After studying some botany in college in Detroit, MI and moving out to the west coast before his last semester, he has spent the last ten years working on mushroom farms, studying from as well as writing his own books, and starting his own organization.
“I learned a lot about lab work [pertaining to mushroom cultivation], and how simple it is to recreate in the outside environment. There’s not a lot of people doing ‘open-air’ cultivation on a large scale, and mostly I wanted to prove how cheap and easy it can be.” He explained that with about $50 in supplies, you can recreate what most people are doing in their sterile lab environments, from growing on agar plates to fruiting in a humid area.
Ja doesn’t hesitate to point out he is still very much a student, as he spreads his wings into classes on environmental applications to these fungal relationships. His efforts have branched into sustainable building techniques with “waste” produced by cultivation, watershed heavy metal removal, working with edible food forest efforts,and publishing two manuscripts on mushroom cultivation and restoration.
As we sit writing on the property in the sun and enjoy the products of the warm-spring fruiting, we are reminded of the importance of self-education and empowerment. Forever students, we must bathe in the relief that we will never know it all. What a better way to remind ourselves of this than through mushrooms and their mysterious ways?