Nearly 50 people joined Young Agrarians at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort on Sunday, February 16, 2020, for a half-day of discussions all about farming and fungi! This inaugural event solely about MUSHROOMS filled up in two days after registration opened, with a waiting list. People joined us from as far away as Armstrong, Revelstoke and Naksup. Without a doubt, we’ll be talking farming and fungi at another upcoming YA event.
The forum brought together four local guest speakers to the Nasookin meeting room, with a stunning view of Kootenay Lake. To provide the group with an introduction to fungi farming in the region, each speaker touched on an interesting and unique topic they have personal experience with, from mycorrhizal fungal networks benefits for agricultural soils and growing mushrooms for market to mycopermaculture and medicinal properties.
Thank you to everyone who took interest in this event and to our guest speakers! Read on for a few interesting facts about fungi!
Kim Watt – Thimble Hill Nursery, North Shore
Mycorrhizal Fungal Networks: How to encourage them and their benefits in agricultural soils
Over 90% of plants form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi. Fungal networks can improve your soil and increase crop resilience to drought and stress. In fact, they can help to increase water retention by 5-100 times and improve systemic resistance to root pathogens and foliar diseases.
Kim talked to the group about how they can support them through their growing practices but also mentioned a few of the non-mycorrhizal crops, which include brassicas, spinach, beets, buckwheat and rhubarb, to name only a few. If you’re looking to nurture an environment for fungal networks to flourish, it’s important to remember that mycorrhizal fungi like non-disturbance, the presence of living roots, continuous ground cover and crop diversity.
Kim Watt is the owner of Thimble Hill Orchard & Nursery, just outside Nelson. She’s passionate about soil, perennial food systems, and regenerative farming. She also specializes in pruning, grafting, permaculture design and landscaping and offers these services to local land owners. You can join us at Kim’s orchard and nursery for a YA event on Sunday, September 27, 2020. Stay tuned for more info!
Robin Mercy – Mr. Mercy’s Mushrooms, Kaslo
In The Lab: an introduction to commercial mushroom cultivation
Robin provided an introduction to different kinds of mushrooms. Saprophytes are mushrooms you may find on dead or decaying matter. Polypores form large fruiting bodies with pores or tubes on the underside. He also went over primary and secondary decomposers.
Secondary decomposers like the button mushroom (the most common in the world) prefer more complex biological environments (specialized composts) than primary decomposers like oysters, shitakes and winecaps. Some mushrooms, like blewits, can act as either a primary or secondary decomposer. In the Kootenays, blewits are one of the last mushrooms you can harvest in the autumn.
Robin Mercy is a mushroom grower based in Kaslo, BC. His farm, Mr. Mercy’s Mushrooms, supplies organic edible and medicinal mushrooms to restaurants, grocers, and herbalists throughout the West Kootenays. Robin also teaches about the world of fungi, covering both cultivation techniques and also wild foraging and identification. He is offering an Introduction to Mycopermaculture workshop in Kaslo on May 23-24, 2020.
Peter McAllister – Underbelly Farm and Woodlot, Kaslo
Practicing Mycopermaculture: Experimenting with edible ecosystems in the Kootenays
Peter McAllister from Underbelly Farm and Woodlot explores forestry from a mushrooms perspective. He’s spent decades experimenting with root rot, blister rust, truffles, chaga, Amanita muscaria, mycorrhizae, caramel caps, honey mushrooms, lobster mushrooms, and more. He discussed parasitical fungi, armillaria, and white pine rust and blight.
An interesting tidbit of information unbeknownst to many in the room is that you can increase the natural Vitamin D in mushrooms, and thus the Vitamin D taken in when eaten, by exposing their gills to sunlight. For those looking for further reading on the topics, Peter suggested “The Fungal Farmacy” as a go-to.
Facebook: Underbelly Farm
Valerie Farcelais –Certified Nutrition Consultant, Educator & Owner of Essential Living Matters, Procter
Body, Mind and Spirit: Medicinal properties of local mushrooms and lichen
Valerie provided an introduction to some of the Kootenays local mushrooms that can be used as natural medicines. Artist conk, for example, can reduce mucus and pain, while red-belted conk is an anti-oxidant that, when dried and made into a powder, can also be used to stop bleeding. Lion’s mane is a brain immunity booster and supports heart circulation. She touched on the importance of taking into consideration fragile ecosystems when wildcrafting. For example, lichens are sensitive to pollution and should only be harvested once they’ve fallen to the ground.
Valerie Farcelais, Certified Nutrition Consultant, moved to Procter three years ago and started growing her own medicine and mushrooms. She created a line of healing herbal teas and spice mix, as well as a beautiful skin care line. She is a vendor at and the coordinator of the Harrop Farmer’s Market and also offers different kinds of workshops through out the year.
The group had an opportunity to ask questions at lunch and end the afternoon with thematic group discussion. Some of the guest speakers offer workshops, courses and other services so workshop participants were able to make valuable connections for next steps.
- Join our Young Agrarians Columbia Basin Facebook Group to stay up-to-date with all events. We’ll be releasing our 2020-2021 event series in early March!
If you have any questions please contact Hailey@youngagrarians.org.
The Columbia Basin event series is made possible with funding from Columbia Basin Trust.