Meet the Community Mushroom Educators for BF 151

Introducing the Community Mushroom Educators for BF 151:

Image of Steve Gabriel holding a bowl of mushrooms.

Steve Gabriel is an ecologist, forest farmer, and educator based in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. In addition to serving as the lead for the Cornell Small Farms Program Specialty Mushroom and Agroforestry Projects, he co-stewards Wellspring Forest Farm with his family, Elizabeth, Aydin, and Maiya, where they produce maple syrup, mushrooms, and pastured lamb.

Image of Aysha Venjara

Aysha Venjara, a keen observer of nature and longtime gardener, thrives in the small curiosities of the world around us. 

A Hudson Valley native, she began volunteering on local farms and training in regenerative agricultural practices in 2013. It so happened that her biodynamic studies at the Pfeiffer Center in Chestnut Ridge, NY, were just down the street from the Sufi mosque she attended since childhood. The link between these two fundamental aspects of life, faith and farming, became a topic of deep exploration and formed the start of an incredible journey.

In 2016, Aysha became the steward of a beautiful piece of land, 3.5 acres of a former biodynamic dairy farm, and a 1950’s barn, lovingly converted into a home by a designer and musician couple. The Falaha Center for Spiritual Agriculture, whose mission is growing faith, family, and fun through farming, was born out of a calling to both protect and share the gifts of the land and the home—most especially at a time when our connections to the earth, and one another, are under constant assault.

Through the Falaha Center, Aysha uses small but thriving farm enterprises, namely log-grown shiitake mushrooms, pastured eggs, and educational workshops, to fund a food pantry garden program, on-farm mentorship for youth groups, and woodland conservation activities. 

Aysha is also a columnist for dirt magazine, a local Hudson Valley food and farming publication, and a facilitator for the Cornell Small Farms Program Woodland Mushroom Course.

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