Barbora Batokova - fungiwomanHello! My name is Barbora Batokova and I was born and raised in the Czech Republic. As a kid, I was always busy doing stuff: gymnastics, playing the violin, learning languages, ballroom dancing, taking photos, or teaching myself how to code. My family had an apartment in the city, but the heart and soul of the family has always been our summer house in the country. We would spend every weekend and summer there, always doing stuff. I would cook, bake, and garden with grandma; clean and organize things with my mom; and do construction with my dad. But during mushroom season, we would hit the woods behind the house and go mushroom hunting. And that’s where my passion for mushrooms began. 

I remember one time I dragged my brother into the woods with me, spending over 4 hours picking king boletes, because they were literally everywhere and we couldn’t possibly leave them there! Our parents thought we got lost, because I must have been around 13 years old, which would make my brother 7 at the time, and we had no cell phones back then. We each came back with a giant woven basket meant for picking potatoes filled to the brim with mushrooms. 

I owe much of my mushroom knowledge and passion to my grandma, who loved the woods. Mushroom hunting was not only a fun pastime, but a necessity when she was growing up as the daughter of a wood ranger in the 1920’s. They lived in a lodge tucked away in the woods behind the Renaissance chateau Červená Lhota, then occupied by the Austrian Schönburg-Hartenstein aristocracy. While they were not poor, foraging for mushrooms brought a nice variety to the table when meat was scarce. 

My grandmother

My grandma in the woods when she was young (ca. 1947) and then about 70 years later in our kitchen at the summer house, holding a giant king bolete.

My passion for photography also began at the summer house, when I started photographing the flowers in our garden. During my sophomore year of high school, when I was a foreign exchange student in California, I took my first photography class and bought my first digital camera. When I returned, I had my first photography exhibit in a local theater. For the next two years, I attended Townshend International School and completed graduation exams from 5 subjects, including Art History, which also involved presenting an original photography project. 

Family Summer House in the Czech Republic

Our family summer house in South Bohemia, Czech Republic.

After graduation, I moved to the United States to attend Cottey College, a small women’s college in Missouri, where I pursued my studies in journalism, photography, and design. Graduating with a two-year degree, I transferred to Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, where photography took a backseat as I focused on journalism and design. After graduation, I worked for a year as a Communication Director for a local nonprofit. At that point, I was at a crossroads: return to the Czech Republic because my student permit to work was about to expire or go to graduate school and get another student visa. I applied to one graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University, and to my disbelief, I got in. For the next two years, I studied design thinking and human-centered design, graduating with a Master of Design degree in Communication Planning and Information Design in 2011.

My graduate internship at Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute turned into a job, and a work visa turned into a green card in 2016. Moving through various design roles at the SEI, I eventually became a User Experience (UX) Strategist and Team Lead for a small team of designers, ensuring the software systems we create meet the needs of our stakeholders and are easy to use.


My Mom and Grandma in the Woods

My mom and grandma in the woods. 

For a long time, my design career was my main priority, but in 2017 it stopped being enough. Living 7,000 kilometers away in Pittsburgh, PA, I felt disconnected from my family and my home country, the Czech Republic. I missed our summer house, the woods around it, and mushroom foraging with my mom and grandma. To reconnect with what I loved, I grabbed my camera (which I haven’t touched in years), started hiking in the local park, and began posting my photos to my new mushroom Instagram account @fungiwoman. Fast-forward to six years later, with over 125K followers on my account, it turns out many of you like mushrooms as much as I do and I am happy to have found a new direction! 

A huge part of my North American mushroom adventures is the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club, which I joined in 2020. I have learned so much from their programmin, as well as all the mycophiles and mycologists I met there that I now call friends. A year later, I became an official WPMC Identifier to be able to lead guided walks, and I am honored to currently serve as WPMC President.

Barbora Batokova signing copies of her book Hunting Mushrooms

Signing book copies at the April WPMC meeting.

My biggest achievement in my mushroom career so far is my first book Hunting Mushrooms: How to Safely Identify, Forage and Cook Wild Fungi, which I wrote, photographed, and designed. I hope you like it!

FUNGIWOMAN is the synergy of everything I’ve always loved, lost for a while, and found again. Now I want to share it with you and perhaps inspire you to do the same. Join me on a guided mushroom walk in Pennsylvania woods, learn about mushrooms, cook some delicious mushroom recipes, check out funny mushroom greeting cards I made, and don't forget to get the mushroom wall calendar I make every year