Troy Ryerson holds two chaga mushrooms. He said one of the mushrooms weighed nearly 30 pounds and the other weighed close to 12 pounds. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

Being outside is the norm for Troy Ryerson of South Woodstock. From the time he could walk, he was hunting, fishing, smelting and doing anything outdoor-oriented.

Flash forward nearly five decades and not much has changed. The South Woodstock resident’s love of the outdoors has only grown, and has led him to create a business named Ryerson Gone Wilds. The business has progressed into an almost full-time gig and he could not imagine doing anything else.

“I love what I do. I am out in nature and I am my own boss,” he said.

Ryerson sells an array of Chaga products (grounds, tinctures, lotions, soaps), ramps and fiddleheads, the latter being something he has picked for 25 years.

The work is hard, but rewarding, and it keeps him in his favorite place.

The road to “Ryerson Gone Wilds” did not come without some major obstacles, though.

About 20 years ago he was driving home after a day of bird hunting when a car came over a hill and struck his rear end. The collision sent Ryerson’s vehicle into a tree, resulting in serious injuries to several body parts.

“I was on antidepressants, and all kinds of pain medications,” Ryerson said.

Ryerson would struggle with addiction for years afterward, and he would also have troubles with alcohol.

He had his big wakeup call seven years ago on his way home from a friend’s funeral. Ryerson had been drinking earlier in the day but stopped before driving home. While driving he was pulled over for speeding. He had spilled alcohol earlier and while the officer could smell it on him, he could still tell that Ryerson was sober enough to drive. The next morning, Ryerson woke up not feeling well and knew it was time to stop.

“That’s it, I’m done,” is how Ryerson simply sums up his thoughts that morning.

Along with giving up alcohol, he also stopped taking prescription medication. Soon after, Chaga came into his life.

He was at his cousin’s house when he heard someone talk about the many benefits the mushroom had. So Ryerson began going out and searching for it. He learned how to bag and dry the product and his fascination eventually grew into a small business.

Chaga is said to help people with diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. In some cases it has stopped cancer cells from growing and spreading, Ryerson said.

For him personally, Chaga helped with anxiety, depression, ulcers, gastritis and his overall energy. He believes the mushroom is a good “alternative” option to other medicines out there.

“My main purpose of doing Chaga and other wilds is to show people that there is alternatives to prescription medications the natural way,” he said. “At one time, plants, herbs, mushrooms and roots were the pharmacy for most people.”

The process of getting it is a lot of hard work, he said. He has to go out and search for it and once he finds it, he has to begin harvesting. After he brings it home, he has to dry it under a fan, and depending on how big the chaga is, this can take up to 18 weeks. Once it’s dried, he removes all the bark and breaks it into small pieces. He then grinds the mushroom and puts it into paper bags ready to sell. He sells Chaga year round and right now he is selling fiddleheads and ramps.

Ryerson said although Chaga can be harvested all year it is best when the temperature is less than 40 degrees.

This summer he said he wants to try and forage for more wild mushrooms.

He’s been selling his products for seven years now and has set up at many different locations and events across Oxford County.

Ryerson has regular customers buying his products and he also supplies restaurants and businesses in the area, as well as some “big chain” stores.

He works for his brother, Perry, who is a contractor, whenever he needs the extra help. He has also worked for his brother Craig, who does light construction work.

Ryerson’s son Alex recently graduated college and when he comes home, Ryerson said Alex will help forage, process and advertise his products.

Overall, Ryerson said his family and friends have played a huge role in his life and helping him get to where he is today.

“I can’t say enough about them,” he said.

People interested in learning more about his business can find his Facebook page by searching “Ryerson Gone Wilds!” Next to the title it will read “Chaga consultant and sales.”


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