Wind: 0 mph
On Saturday, September 29, American Flatbread and Dana Forest Farm hosted Fungi Fest, a day of identifying and consuming the spore-bearing bodies that flourish in The Valley’s wooded areas.
Fungi Fest began with a walk led by local mycologist John Atkinson on the Revolution Trail, a wooded 1.3-mile path that—while currently under construction—will eventually connect Lareau Farm and Dana Hill Road in Waitsfield.
Along the way, Atkinson stopped to point out different species of wild mushrooms, including chanterelles, one of The Valley’s most ubiquitous “prized edibles,” he said. While hardcore mushroom harvesters don’t usually like to tell people about where they go for fungi, “I’m all about sharing,” Atkinson said. (Note: The forest behind Lareau Farm is not a bad place to go. It’s also not the best.)
Fungi grows best in semi-well-drained areas with acidic soil, and patches of mushrooms will replenish themselves each year as long as they’re not too heavily disturbed, Atkinson explained pragmatically. But every now and then something more philosophical would slip in. “Did you know that we [humans] share more DNA with fungi than they do with plants?” he said.
After bit of minor bushwhacking, Atkinson and his crew arrived at Dana Forest Farm, where Nick Laskovski spoke about his business inoculating logs to grow certified organic shitake mushrooms, which he then sells to local restaurants.
Laskovski began his inoculation operation working in conjunction with his former advisor at Cornell University and with the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at University of Vermont Extension, and he’s excited about the future of growing mushrooms as a small-scale, sustainable business model that other farmers in the state can adopt.
“How can you farm hilly, wooded areas in Vermont without decimating them?” Laskovski asked, explaining part of the motivation starting the project on his family’s land. “This might be the answer.” It also doesn’t hurt that mushrooms are a hardy crop, Laskovski said. “Hurricane Irene helped this farm probably more than any other in the state.”
While foraging for mushrooms in the woods on the walk up was fun, finding fungi on a mushroom farm proved faster and easier, as Laskovski invited visitors to help themselves to the shitakes left growing on his conveniently stacked logs.