I first met Josh Zimmerman when he set up a pop-up chaga mushroom tea stand at The Flutterby Festival. That was about three years ago. At the sime, Josh was still in the early-on phase of getting his ‘Life Itself’ business off the ground, and was looking to get more people hip to the powers of chaga mushroom tea.
Josh initially started exploring the health benefits of chaga mushrooms when he was looking to get into the best shape of his life, body, mind, and soul. That’s when he decided that along with drinking the tea, he would also begin to forage the mushrooms, which grow on trees in the colder climate areas of the northeast – especially places like Vermont. So he and a group of his foraging friends would make road trips to Vermont, upon which time they would return to Buffalo with upwards of 50 pounds of mushrooms at a time.
As Josh’s passion for chaga mushrooms grew, he began to take his business more seriously, by exploring better ways to make the product, different types of products, and sourcing retail locations. Once of his prime allies came in the form of Public Espresso + Coffee, which understood the benefits of a collaboration. With Public onboard, doors were starting to open for Life Itself.
“We’re in the works of making a mushroom coffee (in a bag) by collaborating with Public Espresso + Coffee, which customers could then put in a drip coffee maker or make a pour-over, but for now the chaga mushroom grounds can be brewed into a tea (mushrooms soaked in water), and then mixed into their coffee (a little more of a process),” Josh explained. “Also, Public is carrying the liquid concentrate and making lattes out of the chaga. Just stop into one of the Public cafés to order one of the lattes, or look for the chaga grounds at any one of our retail locations, including online.”
Life Itself is a company that wild-harvests a medicinal fungus called chaga mushroom, deep in the mountains, and processes them into different supplements that have supported Buffalo NY’s physical/mental health for four years now.
Unfortunately, just as things were really starting to steamroll for Josh and his business, the manufacturing space was flooded and his equipment and products (brewers, freeze-dryers, grinders, products, and materials) were damaged. The catastrophe occurred on January 24, 2022. Suddenly, four years of investing into the business, which he got off the ground using $200, was in jeopardy of not continuing on. It was at this point when he thought to himself…
“Josh, you have come so far. You’ve grown to have a room full of expensive stainless steel equipment by staying true to your mission no matter how tough it got. Much of it is destroyed… but look at what you created here, how it’s grown. You started with a hand grinder and a crockpot, filling up a few ball jars with tea made from a mushroom to sell at Farmer’s Markets.”
Along with building up his equipment and inventory over the course of four years (he started at the age of 25), Josh also considered the thousands of hours that he dedicated, explaining to people the benefits of the medicinal fungus, letting people sample the products, and ensuring that the mushrooms were not hallucinogenic. All of the work was now hanging by a thread.
Along with rebuilding his business, Josh is anticipating on moving to a new location where such a tragedy could never happen again. In order to do this, he has launched a crowdfunding campaign that he is hoping the community will support.
Currently, Life Itself products can be found at the following retailers:
Public Espresso, Kornerstone Café, Just Juice 4 Life, Green Eats, Mojo Market, GOOD JUICE, Lori’s Natural Foods, Cardea Health Holistic Health Center, Seneca Springs Chiropractic, Buffalo Artisan Traders, FreshFix, B.Well Massage and Aesthetics, Realm, abd Flowered Wellness
If you can’t make a donation to the GoFundMe campaign, then consider picking up some chaga mushroom tea from one of the retail outlets.
Or visit Life Itself online, where you can find products that include Chaga Tea Concentrate, BIY Brew-It-Yourself Chaga, and Chaga Birch Beer Syrup.
And finally, someday you might be lucky enough to join Josh and his tribe for one of the Life Itself foraging adventures – a retreat that includes mushroom hunting, yoga and meditation, sound bath, vegetarian dinners, and inspiring company.
It’s all part of Josh’s journey, and his ‘dharmatic’ dream of one day opening up a retreat center aimed at purification – “A new way of living where we are completely devoted to the enjoyment of spiritual enlightenment in a community of others who have a desire to celebrate life!”
But first things first. Josh has resorted to bootstrapping his business, in order to make ends meet. Let’s help him to get his business back on solid grounds again, while foraging our way towards a healthier Buffalo at the same time.
Get connected: www.thisislifeitself.com
Photographer is Daniel Collins of “Wise Fool”