Locally Grown Mushrooms
I’m Lacy Gray with Washington Ag Today.
Agriculture in the Yakima Valley is quite diverse - cherries, hops, mint, wine grapes, asparagus, and pears, just to name a few. But one of the most unexpected crops in the mainly high desert region of the Yakima Valley is mushrooms. Michael Bennett and his wife Judy are making a go of raising those humidity and moisture loving fungi commercially right there in Selah. Bennett explains how J & M Gourmet Mushrooms was born.
BENNETT: I actually built Yakima County’s first permitted straw bale residence back in ’99 and my partner and I at the time were looking - there was a lot of alternative financing for housing - so we bought three semi-loads of straw from a farm down in Utopia. Then the interest rates went up and financing went away and I had all this straw sitting in a warehouse and somebody suggested why don’t you use it and grow mushrooms. I’d never heard of such a thing or knew anything about it. So I thought well I’m going to look into it, and it kind of caught my interest.
At that point Bennett says he ordered some mushroom kits and experimented with those without very much success.
BENNETT: I got to thinking about it and I thought okay so let’s go bigger with it and see what happens, and I tried it that year on some outdoor beds and we had fair success with it, but more failure than success.
Bennett decided then that they needed to go to a Paul Stamets Fungi Perfecti seminar in Olympia.
BENNETT: So I went over and took Paul’s class for two days and I should have gone there first, but hindsights better than foresight for me - and I learned that I could do it.
And do it they have - now producing more than 18 varieties. Tomorrow Bennet will talk about the different type of recycled materials they use to grow their mushrooms and some of mushrooms’ amazing medicinal properties.
That’s Washington Ag Today.
I’m Lacy Gray on the Ag Information Network.