Mushroom Man Ryan Palmer

Do You Know the Mushroom Man?

Local Mycology Enthusiast Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer lives for mushrooms. If his mushroom-clad attire isn’t proof enough, Palmer maintains a social media following of thousands of likeminded mushroom enthusiasts, while his business Will Valley Mushrooms has been offering workshops and advice on how to grow, forage, and identify mushrooms for four years.

Curiosity Meets Myco-karma
“It all started with a Facebook group,” Palmer recalls.

In late 2015, he found an interesting looking, bright red mushroom near the Hewlett-Packard campus. Eager to identify it, he posted pictures to the group Pacific Northwest Mushroom Identification, where it was identified as an amanita muscaria — the kind of mushroom seen in Super Mario.

“It was getting people excited, and I could tell they were getting excited, because I was excited,” Palmer says excitedly.

Almost eight months later, his cousin invited him on a group foraging trip outside of Springfield, where they picked close to 40 pounds of chanterelles.

“What was I supposed to do with 40 pounds of chanterelles?” Palmer muses.

He went back to the Facebook marketplace, and started giving them away left and right. “Little did I know that some of those people who got that first batch of chanterelles [would become] my customers to this day. I think what I did is plant a really good ‘myco-karma’ seed.”

While he doesn’t do a lot of foraging, Palmer says it’s a good escape for him. “It’s very spontaneous, very sporadic, and I just go out and explore. When I’m doing mushroom things, I don’t have any problems in my life. It’s usually urban foraging, but I am drawn to the coastal range too, from Alsea to the coast.”

A few months later, Palmer was at Home Depot with his family when he saw a grow-your-own mushroom kit by Back to the Roots. (Quick note: If you grow mushrooms from Back to the Roots and send them pictures, they will send a kit to a school of your choice.)

After about five days, the oyster mushrooms ‘pinned.’ This is during the early stages of the fruiting process, when tiny tips sprout from the base or ‘cake.’ Wanting to learn more and make his own kits, Palmer sought advice from another Facebook group of 18 thousand people, The Mushroom Growing Page.

A League of His Own
Palmer found that in order to start growing, he would need some spawn and a substrate, such as sawdust or straw. He bought his first bag of spawn from a small mushroom farmer, and – using a Folgers coffee can — his very first grow turned into a little science project. He then bought a greenhouse, a humidifier, and timers. By the time his mushrooms were ready to fruit, the greenhouse was ready too, and the rest was history.

“I felt that at every point, every turn, everything I had to do, I had to update the people on the page, especially those who had helped me along. So, I just started going live… [to] teach other people how to do this who want to know.”

The Mushroom Growing Page was moderated by a married couple. After speaking with the husband and offering to help, Palmer was given the title of Administrator. “I went to town with it. I treated the page like it was my own. I was fierce-fully moderating, and it got to the point where people thought it was my page.”

“There were 18 thousand people when I started,” he continues, “and there’s over 80 thousand in that group now. That’s how exponentially mushrooms have become popular.”

Palmer had inadvertently created a following for himself, while mushrooms had become a huge part of his life, opening the door to countless opportunities. While he currently works at Wilson Motors, Will Valley Mushrooms has taken off as a great resource for those looking to get into mycology.

A Preacher of Mycology
Beyond, and even within, the mushroom mecca that is Oregon, “there’s a lot of people out there who still think mushrooms are dangerous,” says Palmer, “so learning all of these things, I’m finding out that I’m somewhat of a preacher of mycology. This is my vessel to be who I’m supposed to be.”

Palmer credits many people within his community who help him run Will Valley Mushrooms. A few who make the business complete are Dominic LaFurno, Jim Nielsen, and Erik Badeau. LaFurno does all the culture and science work, while Nielsen supplies the lumber for plugging logs (getting mushrooms to fruit on logs), and Badeau helps with foraging workshops. Then there are countless others who make up the ‘myco-brotherhood.’

“Will Valley Mushrooms is a way to make things official,” says Palmer. “I’ve put every dollar we make back into the business.”

“Consider us your concierge to mycology. We don’t just offer a product. We offer a service that’s unmatched, with the help you get [and] with the products you purchase.”

Palmer currently has the opportunity to take over a small, local mushroom farm, where he can expand his business by adding more workshops and a bigger growing space.

“All of this has just been proof that when you have passion about something, and a dream, and a drive, absolutely don’t ignore it. Good things come to those who wait. Mushrooms are more than just mushrooms — it’s a way of life.”

By: Laine Aswad