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Mushrooms and Mycotechnologies: Sitting Down With John Michelotti From Catskill Fungi

“You should give up whatever job you have and just quit. Just stop now, and devote the rest of your life to mushrooms.” — Gary Lincoff

Catskill Fungi
Catskill Fungi

Driving across the Hudson River not far from where I grew up in Northwestern Connecticut; hop into Millerton toward Forest Park and Route 199, over the river, and up to Big Indian. A spot in the road with a diverse ecology in the Catskill Forest, and the feeling of peace and interconnectedness comes over you once you enter the Shandekin Scenic Byway. Go through Big Indian, and you will stumble into Catskill Fungi’s wild-crafted and harvested commercial kitchen. The distinct landmark on Route 28 is a beautiful mural creating community and showcasing the seasonality of wild mushrooms amongst us. You can find a list of classes online taught by John Michelotti, the mushroom specialist trained under Gary Lincoff, author of The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms.

Catskill Fungi
Log Inoculation

Catskill Fungi Education Center and Learning Opportunities

Catskill Fungi
Outdoor Classroom

John and his team have built a holistic approach based on mycological education, foraging, and medicinal mushrooms. Catskill Fungi offers forest walks and one to three-day workshops to teach people about mushroom identification, tincture making, fungi cultivation, including log inoculation and building take-home mushroom kits. Students also learn about the medicinal aspects of fungi and their health benefits. The practice of foraging begins just down the way at Camp Log Inoc. They offer beginner walks, identification properties, indoor and outdoor cultivation, and educational opportunities.

Catskill Fungi
Fungi Identification

John also collaborated with New York City Teachers and Math For America to share with science teachers in the 5 boroughs how to include fungi in the classroom. Fungi Education, a branch of The Fungi Foundation, built a K-12 curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Fungi Education offers a free curriculum to anyone who wants to implement it in their program. John and Catskill Fungi are helping educate teachers about the importance of fungi for our futures. He also teaches a wild mushroom safety certification course when not in the woods foraging. You might catch him traveling to Telluride to present at the country's largest and longest-running mushroom festival, the Telluride Mushroom Festival. Check further out West for him in downtown Petaluma, California, where he might be participating in the Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA) annual wild mushroom forays.

Catskill Fungi

The Catskill Fungi Mural

Catskill Fungi

John wanted a space to create products and educate, so they built a commercial kitchen in downtown Big Indian. He worked with Chloe Mosbacher and Matt O’Connor, local artists, and with the guidance and insight of the team, they painted a beautiful mural on the side of the commercial kitchen to symbolize the Catskill region’s fungi to use as a teaching tool—a real benefit for spatial and visual learners. The mural is a beautifully curated art piece, designed and painted with vibrance and attention to detail.

Catskill Fungi

The Catskill Fungi mural embodies the available fungi throughout the changing seasons. The painting symbolizes a communal meeting and learning space for all who want to understand mushrooms better, start a mushroom farming business, or teach mushroom foraging and farming in their classroom. Looking to the left side of the mural, it begins with winter, and flowing evergreens set the stage for the evolution through each season, ending in fall at the far right. You can see Chaga, a winter mushroom - rolling into spring with Jelly and Oysters, Morels in the spring-summer, Chanterelle in the summer, and Hen of the Woods in the fall. The building is surrounded by deciduous forest, rolling hills, and Paper Birch etched throughout the landscape.

Catskill Fungi

Catskill Fungi On The Market

Catskill Fungi

Catskill Fungi produces health extracts sold in stores, farmers' markets, and online. They present a unique selection of products like Reishi / Ling Chi / Varnished Conk - Lion’s Mane / Bear’s Head / Pom Pom. All production takes place onsite at the kitchen facility in their downtown location of Big Indian. They sustainably harvest no more than 50% of the medicinal fungi they find in the forest. They also grow Shiitake in forested areas throughout their property, just down the road from the commercial kitchen. Spring is the most optimal time to inoculate the Shiitake, while the sap is abundant from the hardwood treetops. That sap synthesizes with the fruit and creates an earthen Catskill terroir of Oak, Maple, and Hickory flavors - all dependent on the type of cut logs used in the application - the flavor profiles are impressive. The sapwood layer is beneath the bark, where the Shiitake yields nutrients to grow and develop its flavor profiles.

Catskill Fungi
John Michelotti

Innovation In Mycotechnologies

John is an educator of mycelial studies and spends time exploring the aspects and opportunities of Mycotechnology, replacing inorganic materials with mycelial material to make packaging, textiles, and leather replacement. I couldn’t help but think about what an artisan in a Makerspace could do with some mycelium and a 3D printer. Last year alone, manufacturers produced one million square feet of Myco Leather to build luxury car seats, yoga mat bags, purses, and more.

Another organization working with mycomaterials is BioFabricate. Suzanne Lee and Dr. Amy Congdon have built a business and are experts in design and biomaterial product prototyping. They operate design-based events in New York City, Paris, and London, offering consulting and product resources to assist start-ups and investors in advancing biomaterial manufacturing and development. More companies are creating products like black mycelium to advance scattering radiation and build inflatable structures on Mars. Keep an eye out for mycotechnology solutions in construction; the approach to mitigating waste is already in proof of concept, and some are in total production.

Finally, implementing the process of fermented foods using mycelium, Michael Leonard and his team from MYCO Technology, based out of Aurora, Colorado, are cooking up next generation food solutions using Shiitake mushroom mycelia. All extraordinary companies and unique products are being implemented to solve problems, adding value across every industry vertical.

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