Mushrooms can be poisonous, boring, psychedelic, destructive, or healing. They offer the thrill of the hunt, deliver that umami flavour like nothing else, and can even shift your perspective on life, the universe and everything.
I love mushrooms because they are mysterious, mystical and delicious. And because they are great for so many applications in working with the land. Mushrooms have also been my bridge to new understanding of how nature functions- leading me to new ways of organizing my work, gardens and activism.
Mushrooms were part of my awakening to the interconnectedness of nature when I learned about mycorrhizae, a “fungal internet” that enables trees and other plants to share nutrients and communicate with each other. This is a model of cooperation that challenges my old view of nature as strictly competitive, opening a radical new perspective. Thinking about a forest as a community supported by a mycorrhizal network brings me to be more conscious about my role in my social ecosystem and the contributions I make to my community. It was a big leap from seeing mushrooms as a pizza topping* to its fundamental role in the health of ancient forests by making possible a mutual aid network of relationships. I sought out better understanding of forest ecosystems and their protection became important to me. Growing my activism in a new direction I sought community with other “forest defenders” helping to protect the ancient red pine forests in Temagami. My experiences there shaped my life as an activist and impressed upon me the power of human community working cooperatively.
As an activist & gardener, I have generally taken a guerilla approach in the garden. I have explored different garden tactics over the years and gained experience in working in many different contexts. Pop-up community gardens, parking lots converted to gardens & social gathering places to an urban farm at a heritage industrial site, I have pioneered projects in marginal urban spaces that have brought people together to build better relationships with nature and each other. Through this work I became interested in fungi for urban soil remediation and then quickly discovered a world of possibilities in urban agriculture. At Growing Power in Milwaukee, Will Allen demonstrated that mushrooms have a place in his layered system of aquaponic hoop houses. Through my Organic Master Gardener certificate study I delved into the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham and the soil food web- the symbiotic soil community that supports our gardens and forests.
My Permaculture Design Certificate experience was life changing for me in that I was now equipped to design whole systems, to make connections and mutually beneficial relationships on the land and home- acting as a mycelial-style matchmaker of flora and fauna. Minga Skill Building Hub performs that function for us here in our community, bringing people together to form new relationships based, in part, on mutual aid. Each step on my journey that mycorrhizae opened for me has been more mind expanding and full of opportunity than the last.
My activism focus today is helping to building community resilience, sharing my skills with my community through shared experience based on the ethics of care for Earth, care for people and fair share.
Mushrooms have been in my gardens now for several years, providing many benefits to the health of the plant community and my family. I am looking forward to teaching and equipping you to grow mushrooms at home, and sharing some thinking tools you can use in your gardens to make them healthier and productive.
*Windsor pizza is the best pizza style in Ontario, partly due to its signature use of canned mushrooms rather than fresh. Local Galati mozzarella, sauce that zings on a crust that is the perfect balance of crispy and chewy locks it down.
David is teaching a hands-on oyster and wine cap mushroom workshop on April 7th. For more info and to register, click here.
David Fields is an Organic Master Gardener, his hands have been in the soil since his earliest memory- playing and eating in his grandfather’s vegetable garden. As a community change agent and environmental activist, David builds bridges between people, ideas and nature through the power of shared experience in events, projects and strategies, including community gardens, a housing co-op and an urban farm pilot project. Cycling, reading, playing games and genealogy count among his other interests, which he usually shares with family. David’s love of nature has led him through years of garden trials and triumphs, in urban and rural contexts, shaping his approach to gardening and view of life: that we (everything) work better together.