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Behind The Conference: Tradd Cotter

tradd-cotter-confThe 19th Annual Georgia Organics Conference is nearly upon us! In anticipation of the featured In Depth Workshops and Educational Sessions, we reached out to presenters for some additional information about their topic.

In this edition of Behind The Conference, we spoke with Tradd Cotter, a microbiologist, professional mycologist, and organic gardener. Cotter, founder of Mushroom Mountain, has been tissue culturing, collecting native fungi in the Southeast, and cultivating both commercially and experimentally for more than twenty-two years, along with his wife, Olga.

Friday In Depth Workshop
Tradd Cotter – Mushroom, Molds, and Mycorrhizae: The Cultivation and Permaculture of Fungi
Friday, Feb 26, 2016 from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tradd will be presenting about fungi and offers an opportunity to see how easy and rewarding growing mushrooms can be. Read the full workshop description here.

  1. Who or what inspired you to join your field and how?

I was inspired by my mom to visit a local mushroom farm when I was 20 years old, and the owner gave me a tour through the facility, then offered me a job on the spot. What an amazing day, or twist of fate that changed my life forever! I am forever in debt to my mom for recommending that I go check it out, and she is still more supportive than ever.

The day after I was hired, I was shown how to cultivate 1,000 pounds of shiitake mushrooms a week, and since then I have been curious about all the other wonderful mushrooms that are used for either gourmet or medicinal purposes. Today I have built the personal experience and an honest passion for fungi that it deserves its own obsessive personality disorder…I don’t think that I can live without it!

  1. What does resilience in farming mean to you?

Resilience in farming to me is overcoming obstacles and challenging your ingenuity to prevail in an industry that is constantly throwing pitfalls in front of you. Living organisms are so dynamic that you have to stay “in tune,” compassionate, and develop a strength that is instinctual, that tells you giving up is never an option, and growing with organic methods is the only way.

  1. early birdWhat is the toughest aspect of farming, and what helps you get through it?

I feel that the toughest aspect of our mushroom operation is personnel, finding and keeping employees that are just as passionate as Olga and I are, who are willing to push and fight through the day to day challenges. This is a difficult job, being a farmer, but it can be much easier when you have a dedicated team of people looking out for the future of the company.

  1. Why are you excited to present about your topic and what are some key takeaways attendees will get from your session?

My session is a cross section of many wonderful aspects of how fungi, including mushrooms, can be used in many different ways around every farm, from produce to livestock. This is a collection of all my favorite topics bundled together in one, and I have organized it in a way for everyone to leave with a strong mental toolkit for taking action.

Understanding how these fungal relationships can harmonize ecosystems, improve yields, recycle organic debris into rich compost, and lead to discoveries like targeting specific fungi for problematic insect pests, which can replace chemical pesticides, is a strength that every farmer should know.

  1. What about the Georgia Organics conference do you look forward to the most?

The farmers feast, what else?! The time when we can all gather, mingle, share some local wine and beer, dance, celebrate, and enjoy all the hard work that everyone has achieved to make the conference a huge success, and building the organic movement into a sustaining ideology for generations to come.

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  1. Spending time with Tradd will change your life.

    We were fortunate to have him grace us with his humor and wisdom at the Connecting for Change Conference in New Bedford MA this past fall.
    He is generous, kind and oh so much fun…I look forward to spending time with him again.

    ***Peace and Abundance***

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