Last month on the Piedmont Farm Tour, we visited Haw River Mushrooms. Laura and Ches Stewart grow all kinds of mushrooms (edible and medicinal) in a box truck on the farm. We got to see all stages of the process!
When we arrived, Laura was giving a talk to a crowd of tourists. They’ve been growing mushrooms exclusively since 2014. Ches and Laura used to grow mushrooms outdoors on media like logs. Growing inside is more consistent, which has allowed them to increase production and form relationships with buyers like restaurants, who need a steady supply. (In addition to restaurants, they sell at three farmers markets: The Greensboro Curb Market, Chapel Hill Farmers Market, and Eno Farmers Market in downtown Hillsborough.) They are able to monitor for any bags that go awry.
Laura showed us the bags of sawdust that they innoculate with mushroom spawn. They use a large mixing machine to mix the spawn into the sawdust evenly. The bags sit in a climate controlled room until the fungi spreads throughout the bag. Then the bags are cut open and placed on shelves in a cool, humid box truck, where the mushrooms grow.
We walked through both growing areas, looking at the bags in various stages of growth and the various types of mushrooms sprouting: oyster mushrooms, lions mane, shiitake, and more. It was a unique experience, unlike any other farm I’d been on.
Out under the shade of the trees, Laura was beginning her talk for the next round of visitors. Under a tent, baskets of mushrooms for sale lined a table. In addition to the mushrooms, Ches and his helpers had kits to grow-your-own for sale. Laura and Ches teach classes at the farm as well (learn more). We enjoyed a cup of creamy, vegan oyster mushroom soup before we left.