Catskill Fungi, an interview with John Michelotti.

This month we'll have John from Catskill Fungi in the store for a sampling event on Friday, October 11th, from 2:30-6:30. To learn a little more about him and his local business, check out this e-mail interview:

HFFC: Can you describe a little bit about your business, its founding, and why you do what you?

John: As I waited for my friend at the High Falls Food Coop, I browsed the tinctures as she shopped for snacks for our hike. I noticed there were local plant extracts and mushroom extracts from the pacific northwest. I had been making mushroom extracts for myself, friends, and family for a number of years and asked someone at the store if they would be interested in local mushroom extracts. Their excitement drove me to dig deeper into the scientific research and formulate the best extract I could make with the most integrity. I created a logo, built a website, made a label and launched Catskill Fungi in 2015. We are now in over 16 stores in the Castkills and NYC as well as 3 local farmers markets. Supporters of Catskill Fungi have stepped up to re-design the logo, labels, and (coming soon) the new website.

HFFC: What are a few of your favorite fungi, and why?

John: Reishi and Lion's Mane have been my consistent favorites. Growing Reishi and harvesting it in the Catskills throughout the years has given me a deeper appreciation for the health benefits it has to offer. I find it helps balance the emotions and energy levels as well as bring awareness to what the body needs. As a science minded person I have used careful calculations to formulate my extract based on published studies. I present at science-minded conferences about medicinal mushrooms which are scrutinized due to the lack of human clinical trials. Yet, different cultures have utilized this particular mushroom for it's health properties some for 2000 years. In the end, we each choose what is best for "me".

Lion's mane has shown promise in human clinical trials. Brain function and neurological support are on the top of the list for this mushroom. Hericenone compounds have been active in stimulating the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) which help the function of the central and peripheral nervous system. Studies have been conducted with patients with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, nerve damage, and even anxiety and depression. People I see at farmers markets report remarkable improvements in memory and relief from nerve related pain. I feel more clear by taking lion's mane every day. It feels good to know my community is finding benefits from these mushroom extracts too.

HFFC: What are some aspects you most appreciate about living in this area?

John: Community as well as the clean air and clean water.

The community support has been amazing and it feels good to be making a product that has helped the members of this community. It feels great to hear what people have to say about the benefits they feel. I am glad to be a part of helping them do their best because I know that each of us have a lot to do with making this community what it is.

The health of our environment is essential as it is the everyday ingredients of our lives. Breathing clean air and drinking clean water is one of the greatest blessings of this area. During the mushroom walks and events I host, I always bring attention to the importance of these things to grow healthy beings. This is also the basis for the food that grows in our area. This is especially important for mushrooms as they can hyper-accumulate toxins within their environment. The mushrooms in the Catskills are grown in some of the most pristine conditions in the world and that lends to the concentration of their health benefits.

HFFC: How did you first become involved with the Co-op?

John: The first time I ever went to the co-op was the day I was inspired to start Catskill Fungi. Since then, I have met many friends through the co-op and have been nourished by the veggies and food from my local area that is available there.

HFFC: Could you share something about the Co-op that you appreciate?

John: I appreciate that I know the farmers and farms that are available at the store. I can recognize my friends' products and know the face behind the name and brand. I appreciate the care and compassion in the choices that are made to assure high quality products within the space. Even the brands I may not know the makers of I know have been chosen by good people that care about our community.

HFFC: Is there anything else you'd like to share?

John: I want to thank the people at the High Falls Food Coop for their hard work in making the High Falls Food Co-op a beacon of health and connection within our community.

Jake Farrell