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Why Preserving Old Growth Forests Is Key to Chaga Sustainability with Garrett Kopp of Birch Boys Chaga
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Why Preserving Old Growth Forests Is Key to Chaga Sustainability with Garrett Kopp of Birch Boys Chaga

Vivian Kanchian
Vivian Kanchian
January 17, 2024
22 min

In the green expanse of the Adirondack Mountains, a young visionary is redefining our relationship with the ancient forests and their hidden treasures. At just 25, Garrett Kopp, founder of Birch Boys, Inc., has emerged as a leading figure in the sustainable harvesting of Chaga, a medicinal fungus with deep roots in folk medicine.

Kopp grew up in the Adirondack Mountains, where he naturally developed a broad passion for the wild northern forests of New York. He began to specialize this passion toward Chaga when, one day, he accidentally helped himself to a cup of what appeared to be iced tea in his grandmother’s refrigerator – who had started harvesting and brewing Chaga amidst her battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Soon after that, Kopp and his grandmother expanded their Chaga harvesting activities to local farmer’s markets.

Today, Birch Boys is a nationally recognized online brand, with a vertically integrated supply chain that sustainably sources the fruits of tree-borne fungi from over 220,000 leased acres of leased private land in the Adirondack park, where it is carefully harvested by hand before being dried, processed, and extracted with love, at his fungi factory in none other than Tupper Lake, NY.

Vivian Kanchian: So, I did a little homework before our interview. And your Audubon article about all the wildlife that yellow birch trees support and the symbiotic relationship between Mesima mushroom and woodpeckers really warmed the cockles of my heart – but also made me worried about the fate of these trees that are now being targeted by foresters for cheap wood and pulp products.

Garrett Kopp: It is a very true thing. Yeah, I’m concerned.

VK: I can’t imagine not losing sleep when you’re so immersed in the forest and have such a deep connection to it. There’s so much at stake.

I recently interviewed Ron Teeguarden of Dragon Herbs, and we were talking about the sustainability issues with Chaga. He mentioned that the longer Chaga grows, the more chemically balanced and medicinal it becomes. As I shared with you during one of our initial calls, I have tended to steer away from talking about or promoting Chaga because of what I’d heard about it being a scarce resource.

And then you and I spoke, and much to my surprise, I learned that you in fact harvest wild tree-borne Chaga, and that in your neck of the woods it is very much sustainable. This conversation turned my whole impression of Chaga and sustainability on its head. Could you talk a little more about this?

GK: I want to really hone in on one part of what you just said, which is that Chaga takes a really long time to grow. That absolutely is true in the sense that the piece of chaga, which is the harvestable part of Inonotus obliquus is an organ called a sclerotia (which is not a mushroom), that only develops over time. It’s totally dependent on the age of the tree.

So, you have yellow birch trees that are sometimes upwards of 100 or 200, even 300 years old. White birch trees may only live to be like 80 years old. But the point is that the larger the tree, the older the tree. Those are the types of trees that are going to bear very large old pieces of chaga, because that’s how long it takes for the Chaga to span the entire vertical length of the inside of the tree trunk. And that’s what Chaga does. I mean, it’s a parasite. 

It’s fascinating because I just found my second active Chaga fruiting body ever. Basically, Chaga will kill the tree and rip open its bark, and the whole inside of the sapwood of the tree becomes this spore-bearing mushroom.

It doesn’t look like a mushroom, but it is a fruiting body. And then the spores come from there, and all these different varieties of moths immediately find it. The larvae then eat the spores, and it all happens very quickly. Within a week it’ll totally dry up and be dead and gone, and then you’ll just see a dead birch tree.

It takes a lot of attention to detail to notice that it’s been killed by Chaga. But sometimes you won’t even see the sclerotia. In other words, Inonotus obliquus can invade and kill young upcoming forests (saplings from one to 10 years old) without anyone even being aware, because the Chaga isn’t even really visible.

It only develops Chaga when it’s in this intense battle with an old growth tree, you know, for years. And that’s what makes Chaga so medicinal. So he’s right in that one sense, you know… the piece of Chaga I showed you earlier was a 10 year old piece of Chaga, but it doesn’t mean that Chaga can’t reproduce faster than that.

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VK: How can you tell it’s 10 years old?

GK: So, they have annual growth rings, and they kind of become obscured as the Chaga gets older, and as you get up higher.

VK:  Wow – amazing! In your opinion, how long does it take for Chaga to become medicinal?

GK: Well, I think that by the time you have harvestable Chaga, it is medicinal. It’s just that how much Chaga is there is going to vary, you know. Maybe If it’s a small or young tree it will be larger than a football. If it’s an old tree… the largest piece of chaga we’ve ever found was 53 pounds… a single piece of chaga. The medicinal value that that holds is incredible.  And again, that comes only from an extremely old yellow birch tree.

And actually, that’s one differentiating factor about where I am located in the world. There’s people harvesting Chaga in Alaska and in Russia, and wherever Chaga grows. But here in the Adirondacks, we have yellow birch trees (Betula Alleghaniensis) which are very different from Betula Papyrifera (white birch). And typically, people harvest Chaga from white birch trees.

But white birch trees are a pioneer species, so they are very sensitive to shade. They need total sunlight. They only grow where the forest has been clear cut or where there has been a forest fire… so you have these upcoming forests of white birch trees, that, as the forest ages a little bit, those trees start to die. White birch trees play an important role in Chaga’s ability to spread to new areas because they grow faster, and Chaga actually grows faster on white birch trees than it does on yellow birch trees. But the problem is that white birch trees are isolated to certain pockets of the forest and around bodies of water and places where they can get sunlight.

Whereas, yellow birch trees exist at every elevation level in the Adirondacks. Basically, every forest type. And it’s a geographically-isolated species. It’s really a Northern Appalachian species, and it’s a very important timber species. So I think that is why, here it is a little bit different. We also have a dense amount of fresh water systems. Six thousand rivers, streams, creeks, and ponds… and Chaga loves water.

And I would argue that here in the Adirondacks, in northern New York, or in Maine, in Vermont, and in Ontario, I think that we have a different Chaga. A more dynamic Chaga habitat, because the chaga that grows on these yellow birch trees is just massive. It’s so much larger than I find it on white birch trees, and that makes sense because these trees are 200 years old. White birch trees just don’t live to be that age.

And white birch trees are almost always killed by Chaga when it sporulates and produces that fruiting body that will take over the whole trunk. But yellow birch trees sometimes survive, and they will grow in like 3 trunks, or have big massive limbs that split in two. Chaga may just take out one limb, and so that will die, break off and reproduce. And then you might have that tree continue living on.

So, there’s a permanent mother tree for Chaga to spread in the Adirondacks. And again, Chaga is kind of invasive. So, in areas where there aren’t many trees, or where the trees are susceptible to Chaga, it’s not uncommon for it to kill every single birch tree in a certain pocket of the forest. And that doesn’t do Chaga any favors in the long run, because then I have to wait until there’s more birch trees, and the spores are probably no longer viable by then. So, to be honest, I didn’t read your interview with Ron because I don’t like to let what other people say influence my opinions on Chaga.

VK: I can really appreciate that. That’s a rare quality to have these days. I appreciate that you base your perspective on your own hands on-exposure to Chaga. 

GK: Absolutely. And I think that is really at play here in this conversation with Chaga. Some people think I’m over the top about how passionate I am about this. But the stakes with this conversation are very important, because what people don’t realize is that Chaga is one of many species of fungi that is considered a threat to the timber value by the logging industry.

And here in Tupper Lake, my high school mascot is the lumberjack. So, Tupper Lake – the lake this town was founded around has this really flat park, and the Raquette River flows in and out of Tupper Lake in both directions, spanning like a hundred miles. Tupper Lake was historically used in logging runs. In the spring, all the logs would be pushed into Tupper Lake… flooding the lake, and then they would load all the logs onto trucks. This is why I’m grateful for growing up here because we have all these connections with loggers where I lease 220,000 acres of timberland and do our Chaga harvesting. Where else in the world could I do that? 

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But you know, I see it with my own eyes. And what I can tell you is, whether or not people are harvesting chaga – there’s something to be concerned about. I’m concerned about Chaga sustainability a lot. I just don’t think [the real issue is] Chaga harvesting. On the land that we lease, which we just don’t have any control over… you know, it’s a matter of sometimes just getting there before the loggers. If we know they’re gonna be going to cut trees in this certain area, we know we better go get the Chaga before it gets wasted and crushed. When they cut down the trees, the Chaga just breaks off. 

At one point I thought, “How am I going to try and intercept the Chaga?” Because there’s a stage when they’re de-limbing the trees where they pile them all up in this big pyramid for the logging truck to come and load it onto the truck.

So, I sent someone with a hard-hat to go watch for Chaga. But by the time those trees get to that station, the Chaga’s been so crushed, and run over a hundred times… and it’s just gone. It’s just totally wasted. I think about all the overhead and the equipment, and how much manual effort it takes to remove these massive trees from the forest.

I truly think that there could be a more profitable model, as well as a more ethical and well-rounded model of harvesting. By looking at a more well-rounded use of the forest, and not just cutting down trees for timber. but thinking about everything.

VK: I know Paul Stamets has talked a lot about preserving the old growth forests as a matter of national security. Do you know of any such concerted efforts towards that?

GK: Well, I can say, like being in the Adirondack Park (a six million acre State park in Northern New York)… when I compare the privately owned land, and the state owned land. The state- owned land here is one of the best bastions of environmental protection probably that I can think of, and I’m extremely grateful for that. I think that’s part of the reason even that the private land here has so much Chaga, because we have these reserves of state land.

Here, there’s certain pockets of the woods, like Five Ponds Wilderness Area, and Eighth Lake. There’s this chain of eight lakes, with some of the most historic, true, old growth that exists. I think some of the only old growth that still exists is here in my region because of the Adirondack Park agency and the state regulations on what you’re allowed to do here in the Adirondack Park. 

I remember watching Fantastic Fungi. That was really my first true look at Paul Stamets. I obviously know who he is, but I didn’t read his books. I was never a mushroom cultivator, at least not initially. I was more of a nature-inspired wild harvester. But when he said that [about preserving old growth forests], I really thought “Hey, I can respect this person”.

VK: Speaking of Stamets, one of my favorite little books is his book called MycoMedicinals. It’s a teeny little book on medicinal mushrooms – the scientific studies, how they work, what they’re good for. And I noticed that in the last (2002) edition, Chaga was classified as a polypore. And today, it’s classified as a sclerotia, as you mentioned.

GK: Well, I think that how mushrooms are classified… I don’t know if it makes any systematic sense yet. Polypore, for example, just means thousands of pores, right? So, in that sense, I think of shelf brackets like Artist’s Conk or Turkey Tail… I think of those as polypores, because they have thousands of little holes. But I think Chaga is something that’s almost entirely different and hard to put in a category. 

If anything, if I were to categorize fungi, I would say that Chaga and Cordyceps, they’re quite similar in the fact that they predate on a living organism. They form a sclerotia, to protect themselves in a closed loop by taking programmatic control of the host’s immune system.

That’s the purpose of Chaga or any sclerotia. But it does then produce a mushroom [with many pores]. So, I guess maybe that part could be a polypore. But it’s really just like the inside of the tree. It’s not really a mushroom.

VK: Right. The thing that really struck me is that these classifications are just a fraction of what we know about fungi. I find this both heartening and also scary, right? Because we can’t even begin to know what we stand to lose, for example, when we cut down all of those yellow birch trees so we could make them into disposable Amazon shipping boxes.

Is that what’s happening? You mentioned before that the wood from the trees is being used to produce low tier wood and pulp products. So, what are we cutting these precious trees down for, exactly?

GK: You know, that’s a great question. I ask the same thing anytime I can, to whomever I encounter that might have some knowledge on it. And what I find is that oftentimes the foresters and the loggers, the people actually out on the ground doing the cutting of the trees don’t know. So, that was a surprise to me. But they’re really trained more to recognize a tree species is, and instructed on what to do – and it comes from the top down. But I believe firewood is one of them. Definitely pulp and paper products. 

And this is all in the scope of yellow birch trees. White birch trees don’t really have any timber value. So, I wanna just be clear on that. I don’t really think there’s a market for white birch trees besides maybe planting a white birch tree in your yard that you buy at Lowe’s or something. 

Over 80 years ago, there were a number of tree species that are, to this day, considered the most valuable – like yellow birch, cherry, and maple. I don’t know all of them off the top of my head, but some of my harvesters do, because they work in forestry. 

But there are four main timber species that were targeted, and they’re mostly nice hardwood trees which basically have all been cut. So, as of about 40 years ago, there weren’t any more old growth hardwood trees left to cut down. So, there’s a shift that has occurred in the logging industry.

And, I just learned of this through a forester that is now consulting [with us] and doing some independent contracting, so I just picked his brain with questions like, “Who buys yellow birch trees? What is the market value?”… these sorts of questions. And he told me outright that he doesn’t think what’s going on is sustainable for Chaga. He explained that the reason Chaga is so abundant right now, maybe in large part, is because the emphasis historically has been on cutting these other trees. 

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But what’s happened is we have all these new technologies. We have things like OSB board that’s more sustainable, that basically allows you to shred up little trees and form these compressed, glued pieces of plywood, for like subflooring, and things that don’t require old growth trees. So, now there are four new species being targeted, and yellow birch is one of them. Because that’s what there’s the most of, and that’s where the most value can be extracted from the forest, basically. 

And sometimes it’s just a matter of, well, this yellow birch tree has a dead top. And these young cherry trees that are valuable are coming up, and are gonna grow a lot faster. So we’re gonna just cut all these yellow birch trees with a dead top, which indicates every birch tree with chaga. There’s standard adopted selective timber harvesting protocols, and this is taught in forestry, and embraced by the state.

On top of that, there’s a tax abatement program where, if you own between 50-100 acres of private land. You can get somewhere between an 80-90% tax rebate on your property taxes if you commit to logging it within 30 years. You’d hire a forester who would come in and do this, and they would cut every yellow birch tree that is over 8 inches in diameter. and any yellow birch tree that has a dead top. Those are both broad definitions, and so they always kind of take a little bit more than is necessary. That’s just human nature, I guess. 

And so that’s what I’m concerned about. I’m not actually concerned about this species’ survival, because, like I mentioned earlier, there are going to be Chaga spores lurking in every part of the forest. It can reproduce and spread quickly. But we may see serious amounts of time… until maybe people forget about Chaga entirely… before it comes back to where it is right now. 

If things don’t change, and if we don’t embrace the value of wild Chaga, and actually manage to convince these people who control the forests, the owners of the land and land managers that this has value and that we should be managing the forest to provide for this sustainably in the future…they’re not even thinking about it, you know. They’re just so timber centric. It’s hard to convey it to some of these people. There’s just an old school mindset.

I know one small town guy here who happens to control a logging company, and I’m trying to get him to recognize what Chaga looks like. I send him pictures of it once a week. I know he’s in the woods. He’s like, “Oh, I’ve never seen that”. And I’m like, “There’s no way you’ve never seen this.” It’s kind of like an out of sight, out of mind mentality. They can’t perceive that something like Chaga could actually have value. 

VK: Does he know that you have a profitable Chaga business? And if he does, why do you think that he’s still not able to see the value in it?

GK: Yeah. It’s a small town, where I live. My graduating class was like 50 people. And so, I think it’s just that people in my town don’t necessarily understand the scope of what [Birch Boys Chaga] are and what we do. With the power of e-commerce, you being in another part of the country, maybe found my website and have some sort of impression of who I am. That’s gonna be extremely different from the people that grow up in my town, because they just don’t know.

VK: Curious to know whether the state has any ability to to push back on these private landowners when it comes to sustainability practices? Or is it just: whoever owns the land gets to make the rules, and that’s that

GK: I absolutely think the state has the ability to do that. I’m starting to think about it more and more. And actually the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) invited me to come and give a presentation to their Economic Affairs Committee for their Board a few years ago when I was like 19. And I’ve learned so much since then. I didn’t know what I know now, and so I think that is a wise thing to think about [exploring again].

VK: So, I imagine you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors.

GK: Not as much as I would like to believe it or not. As we grow, there’s a lot of operational things I have to manage here.

VK: I see. When you are getting to spend time outdoors… I wonder how your work and this closeness with nature has helped you develop your sixth sense… your intuition. I heard you talk about the little Godwink from your late grandma who inspired your devotion to Chaga. 

You were recounting a time when you thought you had lost a blanket she had knitted for you, and one day your clothes hamper just inexplicably came flying out of the closet. Some people might have stuffed the hamper right back into the closet… but your intuition told you to start digging, and that your beloved blanket was probably in that hamper. And sure enough, there it was!

GK:  I think that [this intuitiveness] started when I was really young. To be honest with you, I [knew from an extremely young age that I] was gay. The people around me, though, did not. And I grew up in a small town, and so you know, I played hockey… I was in the hockey locker room. I even had teachers that would make derogatory comments. I didn’t know anyone that was gay. And the way that people talked about it so cavalierly and so shamefully… it convinced me at a very young age that something is wrong here…[I began to believe] people just didn’t think I should exist… like, they’d be disgusted by that. 

Now, being gay is such a little part of my personality. I’m a person, that’s all that matters to me. But when I was young, I was very stressed about that. And I didn’t really feel like I belonged anywhere, and so I spent a lot of time in the woods by myself. and I feel like that was where I felt totally accepted, totally embraced, you know.

And there is a social life in the forest – there’s other beings. There’s other animals, there’s plants and trees, and there are whispers in the wind. I feel like I really learned a lot just by being observant and mindful. I think it’s something anyone can do. If you really are in a state of mind, and have an intention to learn from the forest. And for what it’s worth, I was totally wrong. Everyone has been respectful and supportive of who I am. It just so happens that is what brought me into the woods.

VK: That’s beautiful and emotional. I just heard someone the other day who had discovered medicinal mushrooms for the first time, describing his feelings for them as: love, excitement, trust, and anticipation. And I think that’s how a lot of people who are in tune with nature feel, including when they discover how especially magical mushrooms really are.

I realize that you have a much more up close and personal view of mushrooms. Nature can be beautiful and cruel at the same time. Like you said, Chaga can be invasive, and totally wipe out a whole forest full of trees. But there’s a method to the madness. Right? Nature is wise, and knows what it is doing and why, even if we may not know.

GK: Well, it’s all intertwined. And that article I wrote for the Audubon society you mentioned is all about what happens when those trees are killed. And how with the help of fungi these cavities form in the trees, and that become the nesting sites of woodpeckers. Martin and fishers (types of birds), and black bears… without these old growth trees that are killed and rotted out by fungi… these animals literally have no place to live.

When I was a kid, I used to think about how raccoons nest in the hollows of trees. But how rare it was that I ever saw a hollow in a tree, because you have to really get into an old growth forest to find those types of hollows. Especially if you’re a black bear. 

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Going back to your question about intuition for a minute… I’m extremely close to the mammals of the forest in a not-so-mainstream way. My grandfather was actually a trapper, he was employed as a wildlife technician by the State of New York. He used trapping to relocate fishers to the Catskills, and they established fisher populations down there and were involved in the Bald Eagle project.

He used to tag Pine Marten. He would trap them up the backside of Ampersand Mountain, pull a tooth age of pine marten, and collect data on that. And New York State, especially back then, were doing some incredible things. They helped Vermont and other areas re-establish their wildlife populations. So, for a period of time, in my grandpa’s backyard, there were fishers in cages, for the work he was doing for the State of New York.

It was all to help [mitigate] the overall threat of human activity on wildlife, because I think at that point in time, the Adirondacks had almost entirely been cut, and Tupper Lake was just a field. Now, it’s a forest again around my town. My grandpa moved here from Long Island, (the husband of my grandma who taught me about Chaga), he’s still alive to this day and owns an antique shop in Tupper Lake. I’ve learned a lot from him about how interconnected everything is, and also how everything is evolving. 

So, you asked a question about the forest, and it’s not all bad, right? Everything is capable, and everything’s changing and evolving. And I think it happens a lot faster than people realize. For example, every now and then I see Chaga growing on a maple tree or on another type of tree it’s not supposed to be growing on. The same with Reishi. I found Reishi growing on a yellow birch tree last year. I’ve never seen that before. And I don’t think we really understand all of these factors and all of these genetic things that go into it. We can’t keep up with nature. 

My grandpa uses the example of Canadian geese, because when he was a wildlife technician, there was only one breeding pair – literally one male and one female in the lower 48 of the United States. But now there’s Canadian geese everywhere. They grow in numbers every single year, and it’s just crazy.

There are now millions and millions of Canadian geese, and that’s just in his lifetime. He’s witnessed that. And so who’s to say that 40 years down the line we’re not going to see entirely different things going on everywhere in the forest. So, man-made activity definitely plays a role, but everything is reacting to that. Evolution is still ongoing.

VK: They call medicinal mushrooms adaptogenic for a reason, right? Do you feel like you’ve shared everything that you want to share? Did we miss anything in terms of getting the word out about what is going on with yellow birch trees and Chaga… and how we can potentially open the minds of loggers into seeing Chaga as a viable business opportunity, and persuading them to not cut down all those trees? What do you think a realistic compromise might look like?

GK: Well, I think the first thing is communication, you know. Let’s talk to each other. Let’s sit down and share some numbers. Because I don’t know what yellow birch trees are worth. And they don’t know how much I’m selling Chaga for per pound, or how much Chaga I’m selling. I think just sitting down, and being very honest with each other would be a good start. 

The problem for me is, I’m coming at this as the party with less control. But I think that there is a way to make each other more money, right? There must be a way that we can all work together, with everyone sharing in the benefits. People are starting to be receptive to that conversation. 

This regenerative agriculture and carbon sequestering movement is happening, which I don’t even fully understand and I’d love to learn more about. I think it’s just inevitable. There’s only so many resources on Earth that we’re gonna destroy until people get really, really upset and start feeling the consequences of it. I would hate to see Chaga reduced to something lab-made like some companies do. 

If you look at these liquid extract products, they’re typically clear in color… and you look at the back, and the label shows myceliated brown rice flour, etc. What it seems like is going on here is that they’re cultivating something, but Chaga (as I mentioned before) is a sclerotia. And the role of a sclerotia in nature is to defend that organism from the host.

I would think that a Chaga product that is not made in nature is not going to have those benefits, right? I guess it’s a question I have that I would like for someone to validate. I see all these instant coffee beverages, these multi mushroom blends. There are real reasons that Chaga became medicinal in the first place.

And I’m concerned that if we just ignore that, and pretend that Chaga harvesting is unsustainable and embrace this other way of doing things… then we’re just gonna end up with a very diluted GMO. Chaga will not be what Chaga once was.

VK: That was a question that I actually had for you, and have always wondered the same thing about Chaga grown in a lab. At best, maybe the people selling it think this is a way to prevent consumers from buying up what they consider to be such a scarce resource. And certainly, there could be some bad players who are just in it for the money.

GK: It’s possible some sellers may just not know that there is a sustainable approach to harvesting Chaga in places where yellow birch trees don’t grow (like the Pacific Northwest).

VK: Can you tell us a little bit more about your journey with Chaga since that day you mistook  your grandma’s Chaga tea as iced tea in her fridge?

GK: I started this at a very young age, having really no idea what it would become. I didn’t start this as a business person. I started this as a teenager who loved to go out in the woods and pick mushrooms. That’s why my company is called Birch Boys, cause I would go out with friends, and we would pick Chaga. I can’t even imagine what I would be doing if it weren’t Chaga. 

And it feels like it’s definitely what I was put on this earth for, not only with Chaga, but other natural resources, and [this relationship I have] with all the mammals and herbs. I’ve always had a connection to the forest. The healing aspect, that was always kind of secondary. I was always motivated by nature, and I was an academic kid… at the top of my class. 

When my grandmother died of pancreatic cancer even though she was drinking Chaga, that further motivated me to dive into this because it didn’t make sense to me. And I’ve learned so much since then. I’m really grateful that I grew up in the right place at the right time with Chaga.

It was 1987 when this Russian novelist’s book The Cancer Ward (1955), was translated into English, and that is how people started talking about Chaga in English. I was born in 1998 and so, 20 years later, I learn about Chaga ‘cause the word is getting out. And I think about how it’s all happened in history and in time and in my place of the world. And I’m just really grateful. We actually wrote a blog on the history of Chaga

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VK: I don’t think you’re gonna be reading books anytime soon, but in case you do find some time. There’s a wonderful book called Wild Health by Cindy Engel, about how we used to observe animals in their natural habitat (before we moved most research into the lab) to learn which plants carried medicinal properties.

There’s also a great book by a German forester named Peter Wohlleben called The Hidden Life of Trees. That book reminds me of what you are experiencing with the loggers… that tension between loggers and those who want to save the forest. While working as a ranger, he really gets to know trees as sentient beings…and begins to find it difficult to follow the government protocols he’s expected to adhere to.

GK: So that right there is a real phenomenon, I mean, there’s a lot of loggers who are kind of sad about what they do, and hunters, too. They become devastated when they see what happens to a forest. 

Have you read Braiding Sweetgrass? One of the chapters talks about Reciprocity. It was very validating for me to read this, because it was all about phenomenons I’ve seen in my life in nature. And it was written by [Robin Wall Kimmerer,] an indigenous person who (with tons of data and research to back it up) discovered that harvesting sweetgrass made sweetgrass more abundant. That [sentiment] ties into how I can tap into the woods. And you know, the intuition thing that you commented on earlier… it really just starts with making an intentional effort to be reciprocal.

VK: Thank you for your time, I am super grateful. You’re both inspirational and impressive.

GK: Thank you so much. Alright, bye-bye.

Kopp’s deep-rooted passion for the Adirondack forests and his innovative approach to sustainable Chaga harvesting illuminate a path forward, where respect for the environment and entrepreneurial spirit can coexist. His insights shed light on the intricate connections between our health, the health of our forests, and the creatures that inhabit them, urging us to reconsider how we interact with and benefit from nature’s bounty.

Kopp’s story is a compelling reminder of the wisdom hidden in our natural world and the transformative power of a young visionary’s dream to nurture and protect it for generations to come. Follow his journey on Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok.


Fact Checked: Shannon Ratliff


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Vivian Kanchian

Vivian Kanchian

Content Writer

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