Guided by Mushroom is an informal-scale urban food enterprise that specializes in mushroom farming that, as of late November 2018, has operated for less than one year. The farm is located a family-owned, six acre campus bordered on three sides by an elbow turn in the Stillwater River in the City of Clayton, Ohio. Elsewhere on the campus are several other single-family homes and associated outbuildings. The entire property is wooded and is not visible from any nearby public roads.
The owner-operators, a couple, have adapted parts of a multi-car garage, that their extended family renovated to create a space for their operation. Their growing operation uses three spaces: a) a small seeding room containing their seeding operation and a Laminar Flow Hood, an industrial-strength homemade air filter chamber; b) a growing space in a temperature and moisture controlled tent in another wise unheated large single-car garage; and c) an outdoor space with a 41-quart All-American Pressure Cooker, a 55-gallon drum substrate steam sterilizer used to prepare their saw dust and soybean husk growing medium.
The owners report selling roughly 20-30 pounds of mushrooms per week to two farm-to-table restaurants in the greater Dayton, Ohio region. The owners said that demand is high for their mushrooms, and believe that they could easily sell more mushrooms, to either new or existing customers, if they could maintain a greater level of production. They believe that part of this high demand is due to their product’s quality and uniqueness, as well as the niche they fill in a marketplace that otherwise relies upon farmers from out of state.
The owners indicate that scaling up their production volume is their greatest challenge. Part of this challenge was due to need to test various production techniques, growing mediums, and growing environment conditions. Several online communities of hobbyist, informal, and micro-scale mushrooms producers provided much of this information to the owners. Despite these early hurdles, the owners have only spent several thousand dollars in start-up costs. As of our conservation, they now believe they have determined best practices for their operation and expect to improve their production capacity in the coming months.
They report no contact with local regulatory officials, but do not expect any conflict with local or state regulations. Despite this lack of contact, the owners still wish local officials were more aware of various examples of urban food entrepreneurship in their region and wish that that local governments would make micro-grants available to urban food entrepreneurs. In the near future, they hope to incorporate either as an LLC or a worker-owned cooperative. As of late November 2018, they had no specific plans to become a formal enterprise.