Meet Kyle Garrone 👋

  • 6 min read

Kyle Garrone is the production manager for Far West Fungi, a family owned-and-operated organic speciality mushroom grower and one of my all-time favorite businesses. Why do I love a mushroom biz so much, you ask? Their branding is really good, and the mushrooms are life changing! Read on and I think you'll begin to feel the same. 

Kyle Garrone, Far West Fungi
Kyle Garrone, holding substrate for growing mushrooms, at Far West Fungi

Far West was started by Kyle’s parents in 1982, and today they supply the best restaurants and specialty markets in the Bay Area. They also sell mushrooms direct at farmers markets and at their two retail locations in SF and Santa Cruz. They’re online as well, where they sell mushroom grow kits for growing mushrooms at home and offer tinctures, powders, and teas. I eat the mushrooms weekly, consume their mushroom tinctures daily, and rock the merch. Again, big fan.

I had the chance to talk to Kyle and I asked him all about mushrooms, how his family started the business, and learned a few things I didn’t know previously about the power of mushrooms. 

The following is an interview with Kyle Garrone of Far West Fungi:

How did the business start?

It all started when my dad met a guy that was growing mushrooms at Hunters Point shipyard in San Francisco (of all places). 

We started as a mail order business, offering mushroom kits and growing supplies. We would send out a magazine and people would order. We also did distribution through farmers markets. Later when we began to focus on different varieties, we found the farm in Moss Landing. 

Far West Fungi in Moss Landing
Far West Fungi Farm in Moss Landing, Monterey County, CA. 

What was the "mushroom scene" like back then?

The first mushrooms my parents sold were white mushrooms and open cap mushrooms. That was pretty much all you'd see back then.

We moved into exotics because it was more niche. We got into shiitake, then oyster, and eventually lion's mane and maitake. Now we also do medicinals like reishi and turkey tail. Today, lion's mane is a larger part of our production than it’s ever been.

What's changed?

We’re in a bit of a "mushroom boom". Mushrooms are more in the American consciousness today than ever before.

It's funny to me, because I grew up in this. When I was young and I told people my parents were mushroom farmers, they’d be like ‘’’whhaaat…”, and today when I tell people what I do, they say, “oh, so you grow lion's mane”. So lion's mane is in the consciousness... they might even know reishi. Everyone is talking about mushrooms, and we see more demand as well. 

Kyle Garrone and Ian Garrone of Far West Fungi
Kyle and his brother Ian Garrone, at Far West Fungi

When did "the boom" start?

There’s been many little booms over time, the most recent one was in the pandemic... you had the Fantastic Fungi movie come out, and that was part of it. A lot of people were at home, and didn’t have much to do. Mushroom kits and supplies started trending, and more and more people started growing mushrooms at home. Also, the psychedelic stuff is happening; people are researching psilocybin and saying it’s better than anti-depressants. Now mushrooms are everywhere!

mushroom grow kits from far west fungi
Mushroom grow kits from Far West Fungi. Pictured left to right, Lion's Mane, Tree Oyster, Pink Oyster.

What's the deal with mushroom foraging? Can you explain the appeal?

Mushroom foraging is really exciting, it's like a treasure hunt. It’s seasonal too - for example there's chanterelle season and morel season, so there's always something to look forward to. There's different ways to get into it too - some people are really good at ID’ing mushrooms, analyzing and looking at an ID book, and categorizing them. Others are into coming up with the best mushroom pics... there's a lot of ways to get into it. Kids are also great at foraging, they're lower to the ground and they seem to have a knack for it.

When foraging, because you need to know where you can do it and where you can't do it, you should first find your local mycology society. Most regions have one (in San Francisco there is MSSF for example); find out when they're doing forays and join them. 

Editor's note: You can find more great tips for mushroom foraging on the Far West Fungi blog. 

Chanterelle mushroom in the wild
Chanterelle mushroom in the wild

Where do you see mushroom health science and things like tinctures going?

Because of the increased interest in psilocybin and a decreasing interest in cannabis, a lot of the labs that had been testing cannabis compounds are now jumping into mushrooms, which we hope will lead to better testing of the compounds in mushrooms. With that we can do a better job of understanding the full benefits a given tincture will provide to the consumer. 

Today, people consume mushrooms and they look at their blood and see an improved immune system, but there's no definitive information necessarily. 

With better testing we can really be aware, and make consumers more aware, of the benefits of different compounds they can get in a tincture, or from ingesting the mushroom fruit. Then we can start breeding mushrooms for these certain compounds, and developing new substrates. We can also look at what the mushrooms are eating, and it could be a boon for breeding mushrooms for certain compounds.

Can you talk about the health benefits of different mushroom varieties?

Cordyceps are great for energy - they oxygenate your blood, and athletes like to take them. The enzymes in lion's mane help with nerve cell regeneration, which is good for brain health and the generation of nerves and neurons in the brain. Reishi, one of the top mushrooms used in Chinese medicine, is all around beneficial. Shitake is anti-viral. Turkey tail is liver and kidney cleansing. These are just a few examples. 

Editor's note: I take the blended mushroom tincture, which contains all of the above and more.

mushroom tincture bottle varieties
Fruiting body mushroom tinctures, from Far West Fungi

What's your favorite mushroom?

My go-to mushroom is shiitake. It’s one of those all around amazing mushrooms… great texture and flavor, and it adds well to a lot of different dishes. I’lll also blend it with king oyster, which pairs really nice.

Kyle Garrone holding Shiitake Mushrooms
Kyle with Shiitake Mushrooms

If I’m doing something fancier, or to wow people, I’ll go with lion’s mane. At our shop in Santa Cruz we make a Cajun “chicken” sandwich with lion’s mane - it looks like chicken, tastes like chicken, people are amazed by it. Also, for the family, lion’s mane “chicken nuggets” are great. You bread ‘em and fry ‘em, and they taste just like the real thing. 

menu with lions mane chicken sandwich
Nashville style "chicken" sandwich, made with lions mane mushroom, at Far West Fungi's store in Santa Cruz, CA

Let's talk magic mushrooms... what do you think of psylocibin?

It’s exciting, that people are starting to research psilocybin, but it's not really there yet, as far as a legal business goes... it’s still illegal, and still (at the time of publish) a schedule 1 drug. But in general, it’s cool that people are doing research, and if it can help with PTSD or depression, that’s a great opportunity to help people.

Psylocibin, not provided by Far West Fungi.

Why does psilocybin make you feel more "connected"?

What they say, is that psilocybin shuts off your ego - the front part of your brain - so that you can access what's happening behind the scenes. You get more of a realistic view of who you are, versus what you tell yourself you are. If end of life is about the fear of death, you're now allowed to separate yourself from that fear, and take a larger perspective. That action makes you feel more open, and to have less of a narrow view, and ultimately this helps you feel more connected to the world around you. Your ego is filtering the world around you; removing your ego allows for a more connected, un-filtered experience.

But I'm just a mushroom farmer, not a Shaman (laughs).  

What else should people know about mushrooms?

Mushrooms are misunderstood and underrepresented in our knowledge, compared to other animals and plants.

Generally in the western world, our culture is mycophobic - I went to UC Davis, and all the mycologists there were in plant pathology (the study of diseases and disorders in plants), and that's because fungi are the largest plant pathogen. So mycologists in school were learning how to kill fungi, because they're seen as a pest on plants.

In reality, Fungi is its own kingdom, and the research is way behind. For example, mushrooms are really good at growing on agricultural waste - so now you're taking an organism that can take waste products, and grow food on the waste. 

They're also organic, hyper local, and good for agriculture - a mushroom can take a fallen tree (for example) and make it consumable by you or me! That's not possible without a mushroom.

mushroom foraging
Mushrooms in the wild

Want more Far West Fungi?

Visit Far West Fungi in-person at one of their retail stores or farmer's market locations in the Bay Area

Shop grow kits, merch, mushroom tinctures, and more at

Follow @farwestfungi and @kylegarrone on Instagram

Far West Fungi
Far West Fungi's San Francisco store, in the Ferry Building.