As we gear up for another enlightening year, we welcome you to revisit the inspiring words and insights shared by our 2023 guest speakers. Delve into the myriad of topics and discussions that enriched our event, serving as a precursor to the riveting dialogues we're planning for 2024.
Keep an ear out! This section will soon resound with the names and themes of our 2024 speakers. In the meantime, allow the lectures and conversations from last year to feed your curiosity and passion.
🎙️ Eagerly awaiting our next exchange of ideas in 2024! 🎙️
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!
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.
Taylor Hayes, the retreat leader and hostess at Hope Network, is a passionate advocate for mental health and self-discovery. With extensive experience in psychiatric nursing and a commitment to upholding the highest professional standards, Taylor creates an atmosphere of trust, respect, and empathy. Her expertise in holistic wellness and emphasis on the power of psilocybin mushrooms to promote physical and emotional well-being make her the perfect candidate to lead workshops and lectures at the Gulf Coast Fungi Festival. Taylor is excited to bring her passion and enthusiasm for community, sustainability, and the fantastic world of mushrooms to the festival and looks forward to providing an enlightening educational experience for all involved.
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.
Dr. Juan Luis Mata
Dr. Juan Luis Mata is an Associate Professor, and curator of the Fungarium, at the Biology Department of the University of South Alabama. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Mata’s broad interests are with the taxonomy, systematics, evolution and ecology of mushrooms. Some of his research projects are focused on American shiitake and other wood and leaf-litter decomposing mushrooms from the US Gulf Coast region and Caribbean basin. Mata was born in the U.S. and spent his childhood years in Guatemala. He attended high school in Costa Rica and stayed there for his B.S. and his M.S. degrees in Biology. His Master’s thesis focused on the taxonomy and ecology of Agaricales mushrooms in an oak forest on the slopes of Poás Volcano in Costa Rica. At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Mata’s Ph.D. dissertation examined fungal taxonomy and systematics of the mushroom genera Lentinula, Gymnopus, and Rhodocollybia from the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica. Mata uses traditional morphological studies in his research, coupled with molecular and computational methods. Such approaches have led to publication of several peer reviewed articles and the opportunity to work with students with whom he has several abstracts.
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.
Shaun Thompson, owner of Seasonal Bites LLC, is a personal chef with a passionate emphasis on hyperlocal, homegrown, and wild-sourced foods. He believes the ingredients can speak for themselves as it conveys in his culinary style. Shaun loves to demonstrate all the natural substitutions available that one may hastily turn to the market for unnecessarily. As an avid wild mushroom hunter, he is naturally gifted with his ability to envision them in many dishes and forms and is eager to serve his inspiration to all.
With her extensive academic background and studies at the University of Georgia, self-taught knowledge, and practical experience, Bridget Childers is a dedicated and knowledgeable botanist, mycologist, herbalist & certified forager. Her commitment to understanding and appreciating the intricate relationships between plants, fungi, and soil has made her a valuable asset to the scientific community and a source of inspiration for those interested in the wonders of the natural world and it's healing properties.
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.
Kitti Cooper has over 10 years of agricultural experience and her dedication extends beyond her farm gates, as she actively participates in community outreach and educational initiatives. She understands the importance of educating the next generation about sustainable farming practices and the value of locally sourced, fresh produce. By engaging with local schools, organizations, and community events, Kitti strives to foster a deeper appreciation for agriculture and its vital role in society. Her and her husband own a Nursery in Foley, AL called Cooper Farm that specializes in fruit trees, citrus trees and native plants.
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
Melissa is an Indigenous herbalist practicing traditional herbalism down here on the gulf coast. Having grown up immersed in the beautiful landscape of the Southeast, she is passionate about protecting, preserving, and teaching others how they can be in relationship with the land around them to live happier, healthier lives! She is the owner of Cedar & Moon Apothecary and is a Master Gardener who teaches classes on all things gardening, foraging, and herbalism related. Melissa believes deeply in community responsibility and loves getting to share her passion for plants, wellness, and nature with those who are interested!
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