Mushroom Mountain—A Magical Resource in the Upstate

by Roberta Bolduc

If you were a fan of mushrooms before visiting Mushroom Mountain, you will leave there in a state of awe at what nature has bestowed upon us with this easy-to-grow, delicious and incredibly beneficial fungi. At Mushroom Mountain, mushrooms come in many different shapes and sizes and are grown in as many varied mediums—logs, cardboard, plastic bags—as you can imagine. But Mushroom Mountain does not just grow an amazing variety of mushrooms. Sitting on 26 acres in Easley, South Carolina, it is a world-class laboratory and research facility with over 50,000 square feet of indoor, climate-controlled cultivation space that is considered a hidden gem among mycologists (those who study fungi, including mushrooms).

Tradd and Olga Cotter are the couple behind Mushroom Mountain, which first began in 1996 as a concept for a farm of the future. It wasn’t until 2005, when the Cotters met, that the seed of the idea that would become Mushroom Mountain began to develop. From humble beginnings, housing their laboratory in their two-bedroom apartment closet in Boynton Beach, Florida, the Cotters moved their operation to Upstate South Carolina in 2005.

Olga is the owner of Mushroom Mountain and plays a key role in the daily operation. With a BS in web design and marketing, she is responsible for all marketing and administrative functions related to inventory, website orders and customer service and communication. She also interacts with vendors and suppliers, and organizes the events and tours at Mushroom Mountain while managing the gift shop and cooking for Mushroom Mountain events. With their four-year-old daughter Heidi in tow, Olga is the driving force that keeps the operation running smoothly.

For more than 20 years, Tradd—microbiologist, professional mycologist, organic gardener, and in 2011, Clemson University’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year—has been pondering questions such as, “What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation help us manage or at least make use of invasive species that can reduce our dependence on environmentally harmful herbicides?”

Tradd’s book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation addresses these questions and more. It has been hailed as “a gift to amateur as well as professional mushroom growers.”

The book provides detailed instruction on mushroom cultivation using clear, easy-to-understand language and beautiful photography. A reflection of the research done at Mushroom Mountain, it expounds on the enormous variety of uses that mushrooms offer, from feeding the population, to the well-researched medicinal benefits, as well as mycoremediation, or the use of fungi and specifically mushrooms, for breaking down environmental and industrial pollutants.

For those who are more interested in the health-related research, there is a chapter on the most commonly cultivated mushroom species with extensive information on various aspects of cultivation, harvest and storage. Descriptions of the nutritional value and medicinal uses of each species is mind-blowing, and include helping to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, and regulate high blood pressure and sugar levels.

Tours of Mushroom Mountain, organized by Olga, allow visitors to view their well-equipped research facility through large glass windows with the up-close and personal experience of seeing many different varieties of mushrooms growing in plastic storage bins, in large and small plastic casings, in wood logs and on cardboard. Their shipping center does a brisk business sending spawn (mushroom seeds), cultivation kits and other mushroom paraphernalia to assist and encourage the cultivation of this important fungus to countries around the world.

These same products are available for order through their website, MushroomMountain.com. An organized listing of workshops and events covering the entire year with online registration provides a variety of learning experiences for the mushroom aficionado. A link takes you to Mushroom Mountain University where Tradd has offered a live, online teaching platform of in-depth courses that are now morphing into “on demand” courses.

Adding to her already busy schedule, Olga, recently partnered with June Ellen Bradley, naturalist and herbalist, in creating the Wild Coyote School of Wonder. The school will introduce participants to the natural world of abundance and diversity that nature offers. Workshops will include “wild plant ID, medicine making and cooking, and sharing communal meals prepared with love and health in mind.”

Mushroom Mountain is becoming known as an eco-tourism stop in the Upstate. A better place to absorb the wonders and bounty of nature would be hard to find.

For more information and to register for tours and workshops, visit MushroomMountain.com, email SporePrints@gmail.com, or call 864-855-2469.