FFSC History

September 2024 marks the 40th anniversary of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz! 

Here is a look back at how we have grown.



The Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz (FFSC) was founded by David Arora in 1984. There were two Fungus Federations before ours, one in Pasadena, CA and one at University of California Santa Cruz.

The idea to form a mushroom club in Santa Cruz grew out of David's 13 fungus fairs held at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum, Sanborn Park in Saratoga, CA, and Coyote Point in the San Francisco Bay Area. These fairs were well attended by curious members of the public, encouraged by the museums as a public event. Requests by interested persons for more information led to classes on taxonomy, field trips, and eventually his published field guide Mushrooms Demystified. (Which came to be known among FFSC members as "the Bible".)



David Arora drew interested parties from the rosters of his classes, and his fellow fungifiles in Santa Cruz, to discuss the formation of a club and to see who among them would be willing to participate in such a venture. They would hold monthly meetings during the mushroom season to discuss fungi appearing that month, have general identification discussions, speakers, and have group forays to local areas to gather mushrooms and learn about habitat. The club's first newsletter would be entitled The Federation Flyer, renamed to Ascus the following month.

The club would also be responsible for gathering mushrooms for the Fungus Fair.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about local forays. Fearing they might lose the secrecy of their hunting spots. Nevertheless, in the Fall of 1984 the first meeting of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz was held at the Natural History Museum and was attended by about 20 people. Officers were appointed and volunteers accepted to run the organization with a $25.00 annual membership fee. David named the officers "Ministers" to keep everyone from taking themselves too seriously.

Among those in attendance were: Luen Miller, Newsletter editor and Mushroom of the Month writer; Bob Sellars, Foray leader and newsletter contributor; Craig Mitchell, membership; Ed Aguilar, Long Distance foray leader; Joe DeSmet, Treasurer and Non-profit organizer; Bo Heinricks, writer; Lia Matera, author of Mushroom Mystery books; Shea Moss, Culinary Coordinator; Jerry Moss, member; Anne, member; Joy Churchman, member; Bill McGuire, member; John Anderson, Museum Director; Patricia, head of museum volunteers, and David Arora, Founder.

The underlying purpose of the club was to make learning about wild mushrooms interesting to both science oriented and curious naturalists alike, and above all to make the hunt and ID fun for everyone including their families.

The first FFSC-sponsored Fungus Fair was held at the Natural History Museum and was attended by record crowds. Club members now swollen to 50 and their families were enlisted to hunt in organized forays the week prior to the fair. Volunteers turned the museum into a sylvan forest using local materials, and filled baskets with mushrooms identified and tagged so onlookers could compare them to what they might see while walking in the woods or their backyards. Books on fungi, t-shirts and aprons were sold. Miriam Rice gave a demonstration of mushroom dyes. Chanterelle soup and CandyCap cookies were available for sale to pique the interest of those on the fringe of "why hunt wild mushrooms?" And The FFSC was on its way.

It was not long before the Natural History Museum could no longer hold all the people who were drawn to the fairs and the new location became London Nelson in downtown Santa Cruz. A large auditorium was available to house the fair, and 5 classrooms were available to provide space for speakers, vendors, and a kids room, and a cafeteria to hold the Sold Out 'After hours dinner' on Friday night.



The FFSC has gained recognition as a major player in mycological organizations in North America, Mexico, and Europe.

Phil Carpenter, who joined in 1984, continues to teach Mushroom ID workshops, which garner both scientific and culinary interest and routinely sell out. One of our members, Christian Schwartz, a Mycologist at University of California Santa Cruz, put forward a proposal for a new documented library of species identification with DNA testing and the FFSC embraced it. We reached out to the North American Mycological Association to include other mushroom clubs to help with the funding and to contribute fungus species. A scholarship program for university students interested in pursuing the study of fungi was instituted in the late 90s.

Since 1984, the paid membership has grown from 20 to over 425 family and individual memberships. Each year there are more forays, events, and speakers. Numerous local forays are held for members and the general public weekly during the season. Long Distance forays to the Sierra, Mendocino, Sonoma County, and Alaska are held in Fall, Spring, and Summer. The newsletter evolved from print to PDF, and then to a website.

In 1998 the FFSC sponsored the North American Mycological Association foray at Asilomar. 500+ Guests from all mushroom clubs in North America attended.

Member dinners and parties include: The Holiday Potluck in December, Celebrity Chef pop up dinners, the Friday night after hours dinner at the Fair, Wine and Mushroom Dinner, and the Continental beer picnic. All long distance forays include a potluck dinner -- whether camping or staying in lodging.

In January 2024 we celebrated the 50th Fungus Fair in Santa Cruz. This was the 37th fair organized by the FFSC—each succeeding fair drawing more people than the last. Nearly 6,000 paying guests were noted at the 2024 Fungus Fair. This count did not include children under 12, who were admitted free of charge, or the school classes and seniors admitted for free to the Friday afternoon opening of the Fair.

The attitude fostered by the FFSC is "Keeping the fun in fungus". We know each other. We help each other learn and include one and all into our fold. We work hard, we play hard. Many enduring friendships have evolved. Lifelong partnerships, weddings etc, are common. Science, the Hunt, the food and wine are all part of the package. One visiting mycologist from out of State attended a party with me after an exhausting day at the fair. He was greeted with hugs and acceptance by all. He remarked in awe, "This is not just any mushroom club, you are all friends."

When it rains it spores!

Shea Moss