The Mycolove mushroom farm is a labor of love for former Denver Broncos’ and Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback Jake Plummer.
While a number of retired NFL players become commentators and coaches, former quarterback Jake Plummer went in a different direction. Last year he co-founded Mycolove Farm, a medicinal and culinary mushroom farm about 30 miles outside of Denver.
The 47-year-old former Pro Bowler says he learned about mushrooms while working with a CBD manufacturer in 2007. He was taking those extracts to improve his health and sleep.
Plummer says he only began taking functional mushrooms at the beginning of the pandemic. He noticed the results almost immediately, he told the Denver Westword in May. “I felt like I was protected from getting sick,” he says. “My immune system was boosted. My allergies went away. I rested better.”
He co-founded a bar and supplement company called Umbo with former UFC champion Rashad Evan. The products were a mix of mushrooms and CBD. That company didn’t survive covid due to supply chain issues, though. So Plummer turned his focus to fixing the supply issue—farming mushrooms instead. He co-founded Mycolove Farm alongside Shane Schoolman, Leo Pollio, and Michael Heim last October.
“It was 16 years ago when I was that guy that would lead a team down the field, and I’ve changed tremendously since then and evolved and grown, but it’s still part of me,” Plummer recently told USA Today. “It doesn’t define me, but it’s part of me. It allows for me to reach more people than just a small audience where I live. … I’m not doing this to make a bunch of money. I’m doing this because it’s helped me, and I figure I have a chance to spread that word.”
The company is small, clearing just about $8,000 per month in revenue, but Plummer says they’re “past the experimental stage.”
“We experimented for a few months and now we know we can do it,” Plummer says. “Now it’s just phasing into that whole big step up as a business and a start-up. We’ve got to have a good product, get people to take it, get it into all the local places we can get it to. Then comes the obvious start-up conundrums, scaling, finding investors, finding bigger space, more employees, possibly, as we go.
“How far this goes, we don’t know yet.”
The shroom boom
Plummer and Mycolove Farm are tapping into a hot market. Mushrooms in all their forms are a top wellness trend. The benefits of mushrooms are many: whether used in culinary applications, for immune support, or for mental health, they continue to show the potential to make us and the planet healthier.
Mushrooms are also showing potential to disrupt fashion; just this month designer Stella McCartney launched her first bag made from mushroom leather in a partnership with Bay Area mycelium manufacturer, Bolt Threads.
New York’s Ecovative has partnered with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger to bring mushroom leather to their labels. Hermès partnered with Mycoworks, another mycelium startup, on developing a vegan mushroom leather bag for the brand known for its traditional leatherwork.
There other applications, too, like replacing foam and packaging materials—Ecovative is also working on that. They also have potential to play a role in removing toxins and even performing functions similar to pesticides but without the harmful toxins.
“It’s not like we discovered this new mushroom,” Plummer said. “These have been around forever, so we’re just figuring out ways to grow them efficiently, extract them so they’re very potent and then make them available for people that are interested in their health and wellness and preventative maintenance and that are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Plummer is particularly interested in alternatives to Western medicine, especially painkillers that can come with intense side effects, are habit-forming, or become less effective over time. He was one of the first to push the NFL to consider CBD and hemp products for pain relief.
The NFL has yet to take a league-wide position on supplements like CBD or functional mushrooms. But alternatives are finding their way in. Flexpower, the natural pain-relief cream developed by former Cal Berkeley athlete Rasheen Smith, has been used by the San Francisco 49ers and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.
Most notably, though, there’s Tom Brady, the winningest Super Bowl quarterback of all time, who recently un-retired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at age 44. Brady is known for his strict and mostly plant-based alkaline diet. He’s been known to rely on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to support his health, too. Mushrooms play a big role in TCM.
For Plummer, the interest in mushrooms is a lot like football and playing the long game.
“For me, my grandpa had Alzheimer’s and, also doing what I did for a living, I’m trying to do anything that can help me re-grow nerves and help get me back to square, which is what I’m feeling,” Plummer said. “Everybody wants to live a long life, I would think. I do. Longevity, vitality, not just a long life but living a good life, not just in a wheelchair until you’re 120. I plan to be 110 and still active. That’s my goal.”
Plummer has also been vocal about his support for psilocybin—the compound in psychedelic mushrooms that have been linked to effective treatment of depression and other mental health issues.
Denver was one of the first cities in the U.S. to decriminalize recreational use of psychedelics and a groundswell of similar measures across the country have followed, including in Oregon, which became the first state to legalize therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms in 2020.
Now, several campaigns in Colorado are aimed at bringing state-wide access to psychedelic mushrooms and possibly other psychedelic substances with proven clinical results.
“I’m one for the people. I want the people to have their medicine and not go to jail and be able to sleep at night,” Plummer says. “I’m obviously involved and lending my voice. It’s just changing the narrative. It’s changing this narrative that was put down with a lot of propaganda around it.”
Plummer says while he supports the measures, he’s not at the forefront of the movement. But he does speak about his experiences, which seem to have played a major part in his newfound passion for mushrooms of all kind.
“The times that I have used it therapeutically, it’s been very mind-opening to the wonder of everything around, just to the wonder of existence and everything around us, how amazing everything is,” he told the Westword. “We’re searching for this answer to go to heaven to be with God. But maybe we, on Earth, are on heaven and are God ourselves. Once you open your mind to that, you really can’t go back to believe much of anything other than ‘Wow.'”