This week I’m excited and honored to bring you Kickstarter Alerts! for campaigns in the Twin Cities this month. Two urban ag businesses are running campaigns to expand the availability of locally grown gourmet mushrooms to restaurants, co-ops and farmers markets around the Twin Cities area. Last Friday you read Locavore Q & A with Jeremy McAdams of Cherry Tree House Mushrooms.
Today, I’m bringing you another Kickstarter campaign from Ian Silver-Ramp at Mississippi Mushrooms. Ian and his fellow mushroom growers are hoping to raise $22,500 by May 3rd to purchase new equipment for their growing facility. Here’s what Ian had to say about Mississippi Mushrooms and their Kickstarter plan:
How did Mississippi Mushrooms come about?
I first got interested in fungi as an undergrad at the University of Minnesota where I studied agriculture. I wanted to learn more about edible fungi and got a job at the Forest Pathology laboratory where they use a lot of the techniques that are also used to cultivate edible fungi.
In the winter of 2011-2012 I decided to get into mushrooms in a more serious way and built a growing room in my basement with the help of a friend. I had never successfully grown a mushroom prior to building that room, but it paid off.
As time progressed I added additional structures to the mushroom operation. Friends helped out some, and a couple of them got more seriously into the idea of joining the emerging business. We had a lot of failures at first and we learned a lot! Our first sales were at the West Broadway Farmer’s Market and then the Linden Hills Coop.
The company was gradually taking shape and in Spring 2013 I took out a loan from the USDA/FSA and signed a lease at our current facility in NE Minneapolis. We didn’t have a big budget so we spent the season building the farm to the best of our ability, meaning that we had to learn a lot about the HVAC equipment used to create the environmental conditions required to cultivate mushrooms.
What are the basic steps to getting mushrooms–start to finish–from your facility to our table?
First we prepare the substrate material, in our case that mostly consists of sawdust and spent brewer’s grain, though we have also worked with other materials. After mixing the substrate it must be sterilized in a pressure cooker or autoclave. Other techniques that use of logs or straw and don’t require sterilization, but with logs the time between inoculation and harvest is much longer and straw limits the variety of species that can be grown.
After sterilization the substrate is inoculated with spawn, essentially a pure culture of the fungus to be grown. The fungus colonizes the sterile substrate over the period of about two weeks, and after this incubation period we change the environmental conditions to favor primordia growth (AKA baby mushrooms). Over about two weeks the mushrooms grow and are ready to harvest! After harvest the remaining substrate material is brought to compost pile where it is available to the public for gardening and landscaping projects.
Describe your Kickstarter campaign and how it will change your business.
Here’s our Kickstarter video:
A new sterilizer will help us produce more because it will increase batch size and provide true sterility. Without sterility one can easily grow mold fungi that out-compete the edible fungi, those molds are like the mushroom farmer’s crabgrass and ragweed. Under the current scenario, production at our facility is limited to a much smaller volume than max capacity, and we currently produce 100 lb/week. We anticipate reaching 500 lb/week post sterilizer.
Once installed, this piece of equipment will quickly allow us to produce a lot of mushrooms. To reflect this we decided to structure the rewards in our campaign to be similar to purchasing mushrooms ahead of time, with a few added fun benefits. Our hope is to let people know that if they like mushrooms, then this a great opportunity to help make some really good ones available all year round just by buying ahead of time.
As Mississippi Mushrooms grows you can expect to find fresh specialty mushrooms in more grocery stores, restaurants and other markets around town. There are also many new species of exotic and exciting culinary mushrooms that we would like to start growing, most of these species are simply not currently available, a local producer is necessary.
Where can we try out your mushrooms?
You can find our mushrooms at the Wedge Co-op, the Eastside Food Co-Op, The Sample Room, Gastro Truck, The Anchor Fish and Chips and The Mill NE. This list is currently growing, you can find an updated list here. We have a rather small list of recipes on our website here.
How does Mississippi Mushroom fit into the larger craft/artisan/local grower movement in NE Minneapolis and Minnesota?
Fungi fit in a key role of the local economy and farming system because they recycle waste and return nutrients to the soil for a new cycle of growth. Our farm is also unique in that we are creating new value from waste byproducts and because we are able to provide fresh locally grown produce all year round.
The local food scene in the Twin Cities is growing in some great ways. Over the next few years I think there will be more startups and small businesses that will find their market by producing new and really high quality products. As a consumer this is really exciting because our diets are only going to get more fresh and interesting.
Besides Mississippi Mushrooms, what locally grown item can you not live without?
Probably fresh herbs and spicy peppers.
One last thing…
If you’d like to find out more about what we do or sample some of our mushrooms you can come by our farm every 4th Wednesday of the month from 4-7 pm when we have a mini on-site farmer’s market.
We’re located at:
3134 California Street NE #105
Minneapolis, MN 55418
We will also have an end of the Kickstarter finale with free mushroom samples hosted by Chowgirls Killer Catering on the 2nd of May.