Mushroom Mountain: Growing Mushrooms for More Than Just Food

Anything you might ever want to know about mushrooms can probably be answered by Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain in Easley, whether your questions are about edible mushrooms, medicinal uses, or how to use mushrooms for environmental purposes in landscaping.

 

For 22 years, Cotter has been growing, studying, and experimenting with mushrooms. “I got started as a commercial grower when I was 20,” he says. “I worked at a mushroom farm for two years as a grower.” He left and went into landscape design, but the lure of the fungi drew him back.


Mushroom Educator


Cotter is a South Carolina native and a Clemson graduate, with a degree in microbiology. His mycology knowledge, while extensive, is largely self-taught, and now he is passing that knowledge on through lectures on his site and around the country, farm tours, and a book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation: Simple to Advanced and Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation.


The book, he says, has experiments that have variations for learners of any age so that they can be used by elementary classroom teachers or professional mycologists, and everyone can get something from it. This was important to him after hearing from teachers who had visited his farm that there is nothing about mycology at all in the curriculum standards, but they loved what they learned and wanted to pass it along to their students. On the other end of the spectrum, Peter Oei, international mushroom teacher and author, is using the book in Europe on the lecture circuit.


The Farm


Cotter and his wife Olga started Mushroom Mountain out of their home in Liberty, SC, which quickly grew pretty cramped, Cotter says. Not only did they have one of the bedrooms as lab space, but because much of their focus is on education, having people in their home for tours meant having their home on display to strangers.


Last year, a new facility in Easley was purchased, and the business moved in April—a major investment for the couple, close to $250,000. The expanded lab space has room for Cotter’s experiments with bacteria, looking for fungal antibiotic applications, as well as cultivation and environmental applications. The new farm is 26 acres, with a large warehouse space with 42,000 available square feet.


The Cotters had moved here from Florida specifically because this region of the country is one of the most fungal rich areas in the world. “Florida had very little diversity,” Cotter says. “It’s very exciting to know that there’s more still here to discover and learn about. Being here secures a life-long passion. I’m still discovering new mushrooms I’ve never seen before.”

Looking Forward


Not nearly all of that space is being used now, but Cotter has plans to grow. “My goal is for this to be the Google campus of mushrooms,” he says. “We’re taking fungi and using them in any way you can think of.” That includes cloning mushrooms, cultivating new types of mushrooms, innovating with environmental applications, and continuing to experiment with medical applications. He has made a point of protecting and patenting his ideas, and he is meeting soon with Clemson University about an NIH grant to see if they want to license his patent.


Alongside these lofty fungal aspirations, though, the farm continues to be a place where locals can take tours of the lab and go on guided or self-guided tours of a trail on the property, or visit the gift shop that is adjacent to the walking trail. For those seriously interested in pursuing a variety of mycology applications, there are workshops and lectures available, too.


Banner photo credit: Garroll Purvis. All other photos courtesy of Mushroom Mountain.

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Duncan, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at SharonPurvisWrites.com.