"At the Kensington Stockyard Food Garden, I’m known as the mushroom mamma or fungi fanatic.

During the pandemic I was bored with Netflix and wanted a hobby to occupy myself. I started watching YouTube clips and reading about mushroom growing. I experimented with growing mushrooms on the balcony of my apartment and shared the results online with friends. People seemed interested. I thought, I’m a teacher and I can organise research so why not make this easier for people to get involved themselves.

I began running mushroom growing workshops at Kensington Stockyard Food Garden and more recently, one at Yarraville Community Centre and saw that there was a ripple effect as I began to make new connections."
Emma Wasson inside the historic stockyard gardens.

Emma Wasson inside the historic stockyard gardens.

"Sixteen months ago I gave birth to my daughter. I got through the first three months, then started to feel like I needed to reconnect with community so I wasn't getting stuck in feeling unmotivated because of sleep deprivation and baby caring duties. I needed to find a way to be fulfilled in other ways. I craved community engagement and being part of something bigger so I continued my work with the community garden during maternity leave. It’s what gave me the idea to host Mushfest, and led me to apply for a City of Melbourne Connected Neighbourhoods Small Grants to help realise this idea.

Mushfest is a celebration of fungi and all things mushroom, and will be held locally in October. It’s an opportunity to tap into the fungi-loving culture and to present different angles on mushrooms, through mycology and exploring fungi’s place in the ecosystem.

Before I began growing mushrooms, I’d never considered my role as being part of a bigger aggregate impact. Now I see that what I’m doing is a drop in the water but also connected to a lot of other ways of producing and helping people have access to fresh home grown food. My aim during the two-day festival is to touch and inspire people to get involved in small acts of self-sufficiency and sustainability.

I grow my own mushrooms on my apartment balcony. I’ve got three buckets going at the moment, all at different levels of their life cycle. I also have some king stropharia mushrooms growing in my plot at the stockyard garden and have inoculated some logs with shitake spawn. I do love cooking with mushrooms. My favourite dish to make is a creamy mushroom pasta or dumplings with mushroom ginger, and cabbage filling.

I grew up on a farm and I’ve seen the lifecycle of animals. I’ve seen my pet pig disappear and never come back, so I believe it’s good to facilitate an early connection with nature. When my parents moved from the farm it was getting encroached on by a coalmine so when I go back now it looks very different. The hills behind our old house have been dug up. I have fond memories of riding horses and motorbikes, and hunting for field mushrooms over those hills.

I think there’s something that happens when you live in an isolated way, away from lots of neighbours. As a teenager I craved connection and I wanted to flip that so I’ve always wanted to live very centrally. As an adult I’ve chosen to live in nexus areas as I like to be close to conveniences. The stockyard garden gives me a patch of country living in an urban environment. I share a lot of little plots at the garden where I can grow my own food which compensates for living in a small built-up environment, and makes it a happier place to be.

Kensington Stockyard Food Garden was a big reason I bought my apartment, and it’s such an important part of living here as I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve only lived in Kensington for three years and in that short space of time I’ve been able to foster a real community. I now wonder how my role in the community garden may evolve next."

Emma with a planter of not-yet-formed mushrooms.

Emma with a planter of not-yet-formed mushrooms.

About Mushfest

Mushfest is free ticketed event aimed at people who want to learn more and expand their knowledge of mushrooms. Starting on Saturday 14 October at Kensington Stockyard Food Garden, you’ll hear a series of free talks exploring fungi under the microscope. You can also book an at-cost cooking workshop, learn to brew Kombucha, or how to grow king straphoria mushrooms.

On Sunday 15 October the festival will be held at Flemington and Kensington Bowling Club. Hear from an expert panel discussing mushroom medicine for human health and planetary wellbeing. The discussion will be led by Dr Martin Williams, coordinator of Australian clinical trials on mushroom use for palliative care.

Check out the program and book now.

About Kensington Stockyard Food Garden

Kensington Stockyard Food Garden operates under a community participation shared management model. Using permaculture principles it grows fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs to increase local biodiversity. It provides a vibrant, safe meeting place for the people of Kensington and will celebrate its fifth anniversary in October 2023.

Find out more about Kensington Stockyard Food garden and get involved.

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