Washington State’s, Walla Walla’s top gourmet mushroom manufacturer, Chesed Farms, is a fantastic producer. Jonathan Garrett and Sundown Hazen run a clean, tight operation focused on blessing the community with lovingkindness and nutrition. Prior, Sundown worked with a non-profit to build a greenhouse for schools where kids learned to produce local food. The two gentlemen collaborated to take that concept and turn it into a commercial-level system.
Determined to create an epic relationship with the community in creating a reliable, trustworthy sustainable farm, they leaned into the knowledge of other farmers and mycologists on YouTube. Chesed Farms cannot thank everyone that shared videos enough for teaching them how to make mushrooms. Here is a list of channels that taught them the ropes:
- Southwest Mushrooms
- Fresh From The Farm Fungi
- Mycelium Emporium
- Paul Stamets
- Eric Myers
- Neil at Columbia Mushroom Company
They started in a garage on March 15 of 2020, and by Mid-May, they had their first sale. They were initially selling online because the world shut down due to COVID and delivered by bicycle. Though they grew so much over this last year, they now need four wheels to move their inventory. Sundown attributes their success to focus; “we’re very ambitious and driven. And we want to make a significant impact in our region in the ability to have locally produced and available food.” Chesed Farms supports local farmers and brewers by sourcing red berry wheat and beer grains used to create substrate.
Jonathan and Sundown fast outgrew the garage into a warehouse within one year. Although it took several months to acquire needed permits, they are now in a situation where they are regularly sold out before harvest. The two of them built out multiple rooms in their new location to produce several species of gourmet mushrooms and microgreens. Most of the best restaurants in Walla Walla, like saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, now purchase from Chesed Farms. The Whitman College is also using their mushrooms in their culinary arts program.
Chesed Farms does it all now! They produce spawn in a lab, pasteurize and prepare the substrate, build blocks, incubate, fruit, harvest, and deliver the best mushrooms Walla Walla ever enjoyed. At the end of 2021, they brought on another partner, Noah, who got them started on growing microgreens. Currently, they are producing four varieties: pea broccoli, sunflower, and radish. And they’re just starting to get that market established.
Stoked about Chesed Farms’ newest addition, Sundown shares, “As people are becoming more aware of the nutrient density of a microgreen. It really helps it be local and small footprint as far as growing the food, and they’re delicious, and they’re fun to look at so you can have something pretty simple and liven up your dish. The radish that you’re looking at here is very dense and vitamin C, for instance. So for two ounces of microgreen radish, you have to eat almost 13 ounces of radishes to get the same amount of vitamin C, which is a lot of radishes, and some people may do that already. But I like to say that the microgreen is the vegetable for the meat and potato person who doesn’t like to eat vegetable, you can eat a lot less of it and get the same benefits for your body. The sunflowers are a lot of fun to put in ramens and soups and or just eat themselves. They’re crunchy, a little nutty, but also a lot of moisture in there, so they’re tender and juicy at the same time. So this is exciting.”
The sky is the limit for these boys! Jonathan and Sundown are looking forward to expanding quite a bit and, on a fundamental level, continuing to get to know the customers or chefs as people, not just as a transaction. This tenderness is Chesed Farms’ culture and is what sets them apart. The more they understand what people like or dislike, the better opportunity they have to humbly speak into people’s lives over and beyond the food they are selling. This kindness is part of their ingredients to building healthy, loving relationships day in and day out.