Telluride Mushroom Fest: Tradd Cotter & Olga Cotter, Making a Difference in the World

Telluride Mushroom Fest: Tradd Cotter & Olga Cotter, Making a Difference in the World

The 38th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival takes place Thursday, August 16 – Sunday, August 19. The full schedule is here. Migrate around the site to find info on presenters, venues, book-signings etc. Or simply filter by topic or venue. Tickets/passes here. 

This year as every year, Tradd & Olga Cotter return with their mycobrews in association with the Telluride Brewing Company. The Beer Party launch is Wednesday, August 15, 8 p.m., at the Sheridan Opera House.

The Gondola Plaza Mushroom Extravaganza, formerly known as the Chef’s Cook-off, takes place Friday, noon, at Gondola Plaza. This year, Olga  coordinates.  She is also teaching a number of classes.

Rad Tradd is a keynote speaker.

The Telluride Mushroom Festival parade, which takes place on Saturday, August 18, 4 p.m., is open to the general public. The over-the-top spectacle is not to be missed.

Scroll down for more about the ubiquitous Cotters – Tradd & Olga – including an interview with the dynamic duo.

“I am very outspoken about my environmental activism and concern for the planet. My expertise is in cultivating fungi and looking for exciting new applications that everyone can use on a small scale to contribute to the whole,” Tradd Cotter.


Olga in schroom ecstasy.

Tradd and Olga Cotter, fixtures at the Telluride Mushroom Festival and owners of Mushroom Mountain, are everywhere you want to be at the 38th annual gathering of the tribe of fungaphiles. They return this year, hair on fire, having added some real muscle to their environmental agenda and crusade. The tireless couple are now set to make a different at at least one address on the globe.

The Cotters have formed a myco-remediation team that could develop into a consultation firm and recently opened a lab in Jamaica, the result of Tradd having visited the country numerous times through the USAID farmer-to-farmer program.

“I met with the minister of agriculture, who asked us to help develop a mushroom industry there since all of the mushrooms in Jamaica are imported, roughly $35M USD a year, and there is no spawn supplier on the island, which made it difficult to get people growing.”

Thanks to the Cotters, that will change:

“We will be transitioning our lab into a larger facility and maturing it into a Caribbean mushroom research station for solving tropical problems such as termites in sugar cane fields, cacao blights, coffee pathogens, while encouraging and empowering the native people in villages, especially women, to grow and sell mushrooms to supplement their income.”

The Cotters are also thinking about developing a plant to produce medicines and a mushroom festival in Jamaica.

“Partnering with some Rasta reggae stars, we have already looked at the venue site. We will see if this is going to happen. Next year is possible.The fungi of Jamaica are uncharted and undocumented. The purpose of the lab is also to create a fungarium and living culture collection of useful fungi. We have letters of support from University of West Indies (UWI) and the Natural Products Institute of Jamaica.”

Psilocybin is allowed on the island and tolerated for consumption, although “illegal” to cultivate per UN resolution globally, so the Cotters are exploring legal options for facilitating healing centers similar to offer treatments just like the ones patients receive at John Hopkins, which target very specific, very challenging health conditions. Those interventions are not currently available anywhere else.

The Cotters also made some connections with refugee camp coordinators and suppliers to meet and discuss mushroom rescue modules for food production, also potentially for water filtration after trials are completed this fall.

And Tradd Cotter is working on a new book, which should be under contract by the time the Telluride Mushroom Festival arrives. He will announce the title and contributing authors (significant) during his keynote address on Saturday night, August 18. That title of that talk, 8 p.m., “Mycologists Without Borders,” underlines two distinct ideas:

“First, it is about the mobilization of our mushroom army to thread outward into troubled areas like Jamaica to promote food and water security and hopefully reduce conflict. Secondly ‘without borders’ means a limitless drive to push beyond what we know or can do, going beyond what others are comfortable doing or saying to make real change materialize. Being a troublemaker, disruptive in a good way, is what the world needs at this moment with the current political climate,” explains Tradd.

The Cotters, as we said, are familiar faces at the Telluride Mushroom Festival. Tradd has attended as a featured presenter for the past six years (since 2012).

And, as those who have been to his talks and demonstrations know, Tradd is rad.

Just ask and he will affirm the fact that hope for the planet really does spring eternal from way underground on up – in the form of mycelia and their fruit, aka mushrooms. And we need that hope more than ever because the earth is increasingly fragile due to climate change and its corollaries: mass migration and starvation. Could mushrooms provide even a partial answer to food shortages, global pandemics and more? Tradd and Olga’s Mushroom Mountain is focused on nothing less than the emerging needs of the planet.

In 2011, at age 38, Tradd Cotter returned to school and won Clemson University’s “Student Entrepreneur of the Year.” Since then, he (with Olga at his side since 2005) has been unstoppable.

Mushroom Mountain first began in 1996 as a concept for a farm of the future. It was not until 2005, when Tradd Cotter and Olga Katic met, that plans emerged for what would evolve into the coolest, privately owned mushroom research facility in the country, arguably in the world.

From humble beginnings – housing a laboratory in a two-bedroom apartment closet in Boynton Beach, Florida – Olga and Tradd moved the whole operation to upstate South Carolina and begin an expansion that is now a world-class laboratory and research facility. The lab was constructed to EPA and FDA standards and now houses more than 200 species of fungi, most of them native isolates from the Eastern United States. Over the past two years, spawn sales have doubled.

A mushroom tree at Tradd & Olga Cotter’s Mushroom Mountain.

The facility itself occupies over 50,000 square feet of available space under one roof for cultivation, myco-remediation, and medicinal research projects.

Mushroom Mountain U. is an online teaching platform that offers courses in everything from ways to grow mushrooms at home to tincture-making. Plans include an expansion of the facility to accommodate a library and live classrooms for indoor workshops and lectures and much more.

Also over the past year, Tradd and Olga created a medicinal extraction company, MycoMatrix, which sells additives derived from various species of mushrooms to be used to enhance a wide range of products from beer and juices to baby food, skin and pet care products.

The couple continue to explore what mushrooms can do for the environment, including ways to clean up plastic waste and oil spills.

For more on the Cotters, check out their podcast.

1 Comment
  • Kelly
    Posted at 17:21h, 22 August

    Fantastic company, fantastic people! Great interview!