We had the good fortune of connecting with Hernan Castro and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Hernan, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Initially I just wanted to use medicinal mushrooms to help people all over the world. I was doing it for free to help those who were in need. After discovering that I could grow my own medicinal mushrooms or forage them in Mt Lemmon – one of the mountains with the highest diversity of fungi in the country – my family really pushed me to start the business. With my combined interest in Alchemy Medicine and Fungi my business name was an obvious choice. At first I was very intimidated by the idea, but with support from my family I learned how to run the business and discovered that I am really good at doing business! It has become my whole life and I love what I do and think about it 24/7.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business was founded in Tucson AZ. I create my products and collaborate with many other industries to make many mushroom products. I ethically harvest my ingredients in the forest with a community and we clean and protect it. We use these fungi and herbs to make hydro-ethanolic extracts that support many systems in the body. Aside from these we make Mushroom Coffee, Tea, Myco-honey, mugs, T-shirts and other regalia. I grow fresh mushrooms and I give back to the community by educating them on mushroom cultivation, wild foraging and ettiquette, identification, and traditional uses of medicinal fungi. Desert Alchemist has gotten so popular that I do talks/demonstrations all over and I have a Youtube and Tiktok channel where anyone can see what I do and learn. I am very fortunate because of my scientific background and mindset which ties in with everything that I do; so it all came together quite naturally and effortlessly and for this I am thankful. The only challenges I have had are regulatory challenges imposed by the FDA, but I have worked with them and other organizations to be successlful in business in this industry. I want the world to know that mushrooms are not something to be feared but something that one should love and admire. I want to change the negative stigma and start a revolutionalry culture change in our country that embraces fungi just like I have started in Tucson. Fungi are essential in our lives, they literally save the world everyday and cultures that have traditions of using fungi know this.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I could show anyone my world in one day I would take them on one of my mushroom tours on Mt. Lemmon around mid monsoon season. I would take them on a walk where we would see hundreds of different mushrooms of all colors, shapes, sizes, scents, and taste. We would walk through creeks, see canyons, meadows and lush ravines teeming with wildlife. I would teach them about poisonous, edible, and medicinal fungi and herbs. I would gather some of the most rare delectable fungi and cook a meal that only very few lucky people get to try in their lives using Cauliflower mushroom, Porcini, Chanterelle and other mushrooms with a glass of wine. Then I would take them cliff jumping with me in Reddington pass, later the desert and sight seeing at bell rock. There are so many unique places in Tucson to visit.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Let’s see, I was not mentored entirely by any specific person but more as a collective. I could dedicate a shout out to the Scientific community all of the scientists worldwide who have contributed to The International Journal of Medicinal Mushroom Research, and The International Journal of Macromolecule research. My Grandmother, and my mom also played a big role in helping me get started with the business aspect. My father without whom I would not have a reason to study medicinal fungi and my brother Manuel Antonio Castro who really urged me to learn how to cultivate fungi a decade ago. Now there are people I would like to give a shoutout to in the NAMA Scientific committee and the Arizona Mushroom Society Scientific committee particularly to Terri Clements, Noah Siegel, Thea Chesney, Christian Swartz, and Chris May, all of whom helped me learn about identifying wild Fungi. I would like to emphasize the immense impact that Paul Stamets had on me when studying Fungi; even though he never mentored me, he inspired me to do what I love the most. Last but not least, my supporters, my followers, and everyone who loves and supports what I do. If it wasn’t for my community who motivate me and give purpose to my path I would not be where I am today, thank you.

Website: www.desertalchemist.com

Instagram: Instagram.com/desert_alchemist

Twitter: @desertAlkemist

Facebook: facebook.com/desertalchemist

Youtube: youtube.com/c/DesertAlchemist

Other: Tiktok: @desertalchemist

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