Farmer shares her extensive mushroom expertise

The Recorder, March 17, 2017, By Dominic Poli.

NEW SALEM — Mushroom seeds do not exist.

You can’t go to a store and buy a bag of them to plant alongside your tomatoes and kale. Spores, located under a mushroom’s cap, are the closest analogy to mushrooms seeds, though mushrooms can more reliably be started from scratch in petri dishes.

All this according to Julia Coffey, founder and owner of Mycoterra Farm, who held a crash course in mycology (the study of fungi) at New Salem Public Library on Thursday. The library’s children’s room was packed to the gills with 40 people eager to learn about the mushroom lifecycle and the basic ecology of saprophytic fungi. Looking at the crowd, Coffey said the library was likely “the most happening place” in New Salem on Thursday night.

She spoke for about two hours and 15 minutes, stopping to answer a question whenever an audience member had one. People listened intently as Coffey gave a taste of her mushroom expertise. She studied fungi at Evergreen State College in Washington state and Oregon State University, and started Mycoterra Farm in Westhampton in 2011.

She and partner Chris Haskell recently purchased a farm they are renovating in South Deerfield. The farm — which grows shiitake, oyster, enokitake and lion’s mane mushrooms — sold grow kits at Thursday’s event, which was sponsored by the New Salem Agricultural Commission.

Coffey brought in examples of shiitake, blue oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms to show people.

She stressed hygiene when growing mushrooms because a lack of it can cause contamination. She explained how a mushroom cap expands and shows its gills when it has reached maturity and is ready for harvesting.

She said she grows shiitakes with what called shiitake strain 3782. She said she knows of people who have successfully stored mushroom strains for 50 years.

You can reach Domenic Poli at: or
413-772-0261, ext. 258.