As we prepare to embark on new woodland adventures in 2024, we invite you to reflect on the expert leaders who guided our treks last year. Dive into the profiles of the foray leaders from 2023, recalling the discoveries and insights they shared, giving you a glimpse of what’s in store for our upcoming fest.
Keep your explorer hats ready! We'll soon introduce you to the expert leaders gearing up to guide our 2024 forays. But for now, reminisce about the pathways trodden and the mycological wonders unveiled last year.
🍄 Anticipating new discoveries with you in 2024! 🍄
Steven Igas Landseadel
As a child moving to the swampy cowfields of Florida, Steven was already aware he wished to take people for wildlife adventures. With heroes like Marty Stouffer, Marlin Perkins, Jack Hanna, and later Steva Irwin, he couldn't imagine doing anything else, often commentating aloud even on solo hikes. Although focused on animals, he couldn't help to be fascinated by the fantastical rainbow appearances of the giant Psilocybe cubensis that grew all around. After years of relocating reptiles and focusing on this one species of mushroom, he eventually began a family and moved his focus onto edible species. Involving his years in the forest, knowledge of ecosystems, and observations, he teaches others how to pinpoint desired species. Having passed his certification to sell wild edible mushrooms in the US, you can be assured on the identification of edibes found on his tours. His high energy approach gives scientifically studied information in everyday terms. Over the past several years Steven has traveled the Eastern United States leading forays and speaking at mycological and foraging events. He is passionate about sharing this world of wild mushrooms and their important roles and connections with the ecology of the environment with you
Allen is a mushroom educator, laboratory operator, and the owner of Fungi Farm. He studied crop, soil, and environmental science at Auburn University and served as president of Alabama Mushroom Society. Allen is dedicated to mushroom research and works to provide high-quality products and services throughout the United States and internationally. He frequently leads educational seminars, workshops, classes, and forays. In addition to directing educational programs, he provides consulting for growers both large and small. He has published several articles on mushroom cultivation and also developed the first mushroom ID expert certification course in the state of Alabama.
Sam Blackstone is an award-winning journalist, mushroom educator, certified wild forager and owner of Mindfull Mycology, a medicinal mushroom farm and extraction company nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains that provides mushroom farms across the southeast with high quality medicinal mushroom extracts. Since 2019, he has also written, taught for and helped manage the Fungi Academy, a Guatemala based fungi education center and community dedicated to spreading fungal wisdom via online courses and in-person retreats. He's excited to share his expertise and excitement about medicinal mushrooms, using the latest in scientific study and research, in hopes of helping people wade through an oversaturated market to distinguish quality from snake oil.
Tanner Hammond aka "Mushroom Man Tan" is an expert mushroom forager and cultivator, hailing from Daphne, Alabama. With over 11 years of experience in the culinary arts and 4 years specializing in mushrooms, Tanner has built a reputation as one of the most knowledgeable and skillful mushroom experts in the Gulf Coast region. He leads educational mushroom expeditions into the great outdoors, teaching participants about different varieties of mushrooms and how to find them. He also creates unique recipes that bring out the best flavor and texture from every type of mushroom.
At the Gulf Coast Fungi Festival, Tanner will be showcasing his expertise in all things mushroom-related. Join him as he leads workshops covering topics such as foraging, cultivation, cooking techniques, and more!
Page, a dedicated mushroom enthusiast, has been immersed in the world of fungi for over three years. In this time, he has earned a certification as a wild mushroom identification expert and is passionate about the multifaceted uses of mushrooms, from culinary delights to medicinal benefits. Hailing from Arkansas, Page was an avid outdoorsman from a young age, enjoying activities such as car racing and dirt biking. His love for nature eventually led him to discover a passion for mushroom foraging. Today, Page proudly owns and operates Page's Place Fresh Mushrooms in LaGrange, GA, where he shares his enthusiasm for fungi with the local community.
James is an experienced, passionate mushroom forager and enthusiast. With over 5 years of experience, James began his foray into the world of mushrooms when he started land surveying as a profession. He found himself captivated by the potential bounty of edible options that populated the forests he surveyed, so much so that it sparked a deep curiosity in all kinds of fungi. His fascination led him to experimenting with lab work at home, using simple and cost-effective methods to produce cultures of wild collected mushrooms on agar dishes. This is a passion that dates back to his childhood, when he was often found adventuring through trails or playing in the forest - something he still loves doing as an adult today. When not exploring the world for elusive fungi, he is actively sharing his mushroom curiosity with others.
Mark was raised as the sixth generation on a Missouri farm. He secured a BS in Forestry Management from the University of Missouri, and an MS in Forest Biology from Auburn. He was the first science graduate from the Jones Ecological Research Center in southwest Georgia. He became a Research Associate with Auburn University and the first employee of the Longleaf Alliance, holding these dual positions for twenty years before resigning to walk the Texas-Mexico border. Mark returned to work as the Forestry Instructor at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, and he became the first person to walk the entire US-Mexico Border in 2017. He published two books (Year of the Pig and Border Walk) and is the subject of the movie La Frontera. Mark and his family are thirteen-year vendors at the Palafox Market in Pensacola where they sell mushrooms, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and specialty wood products.
Natasha Freeman is the proud owner of Bee-Lightful Homestead, nestled in the historic Marlow community of Baldwin County. Born and raised in the area, she inherited her grandmother's great love for plants and has since dedicated herself to researching native plant edibility and medicinal properties, as well as teaching others about the local flora.
Natasha takes great pride in keeping this special and rare ecosystem alive, which has taken her on an exciting journey of learning and discovery. She hopes to inspire others to appreciate nature's beauty and its importance for human sustenance.
Melissa Mizell Nichols