Home » Blog » Woodland Jewel’s, Norman Fetter, Offers Gold Nuggets of Fun-guy Wisdom Supplying Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Upscale Dining Establishments

Woodland Jewel’s, Norman Fetter, Offers Gold Nuggets of Fun-guy Wisdom Supplying Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Upscale Dining Establishments

2011 Norman and Heather Fetter founded an artisanal mushroom farm in Spring City, Pennsylvania, near Kennett Square, Mushroom-Capital of the world. They specialize in cultivating exotic, medicinal, and choice gourmet varieties of mushrooms for:

  • Fine dining restaurants in the Philadelphia area
  • Wholesale through Philly Foodworks
  • Retail through Kimberly Whole Foods
  • Grow your own kits are available to the public via Etsy

As I pulled up to their hidden treasure nestled in maple and oak trees, with rabbits, squirrels, and white-tailed deer buzzing branch to branch, it became undeniably evident why the Fetter’s chose to their fungi farm The Woodland Jewel. In short, it is stunning out here.

Stepping out of the car, I gasped, “Norman, I can’t wait to see your setup here!” He smiled, gestured me in, chuckled, “Let me show you where all the magic happens… If you’ve been to button or portabella farms. It’s totally different because we don’t use any manure-based compost. Everything here grows on fresh hardwood sawdust, so there’s not much smell. It’s just a fresh mushroom smell, almost like walking into the woods after a nice spring rainfall.”

Norman explained that the farm was originally an old horse barn as we began to explore. When he first bought the place, it had a dirt floor, old stalls, and the whole entire barn was in danger of collapsing. Over the years, he and his team did amazing things to resuscitate the place! “I mean, we just had to basically first make sure it wasn’t going to collapse. And then after that was structurally okay, we then started building everything out and building the grow rooms. It was about a little over a year, start to finish.”

He and Heather started off small, growing in their basement before turning the barn into a fungus-producing machine. They were highly caseous to not go in over their heads. They built their business up gradually. Norman reflected, “Once I could sell everything out of that grow room, I built a second one. Once I could sell everything, I could grow there. I built a third grow room, and then I pretty much ran out of space. My business grew incrementally, and I am glad I did because I learned a lot with each grow room that I built.” By the time they were ready to renovate the old barn, Norman knew exactly what he wanted to do, and business had panned out a phenomenal success.

Over the past decade, Woodland Jewel, a naturally grown extravaganza, has produced showstopping exotic mushrooms that far surpass the button-white mushrooms of Kennett Square (the Mushroom Capital of the world). “We’ve been in here since 2014. The farm started in 2011, so we basically just had our 10-year anniversary,” which is pretty wild to the Fetter’s.

If you are looking to dive into starting your own mushroom farm, holler at the Fetter’s! They have had years of success in the industry to share, but they do not actively market their fungi consulting. So it’s really just a word-of-mouth thing for them, this is what it looks like:

Meetings: They do phone, Zoom, and in-person meetings. Of course, it costs a little bit more to have them travel to your space.

Planning: Norman mentors a little bit about everything. From substrate preparation to designing grow rooms, airflow, humidity, and managing the temperatures properly.

Marketing: This couple are marketing experts and can really show you how to get your name out there! As well as how to meet the chefs and get into the restaurants that are really going to want to spend a premium for gourmet mushrooms.

Fetter urges that it is a key component to identify your niche prior to launching your business, “I said from the very beginning look, there is no way that somebody my size is going to be able to compete on price with a bigger corporate or large farm. So, I really steered the farm towards quality and freshness. And again, that is not a number one consideration for every restaurant or every client. Some people are just looking at price. But there are plenty of people out there who are willing to spend extra for a superior product that looks and tastes completely different from something that has been sitting in a warehouse for a couple of days or even a week.”

It may take a little bit more footwork for smaller farms to find those chefs and restaurants who are really interested in buying from a smaller local producer. For instance, to maintain that higher quality the shrooms are a bit fresher if delivered quickly after harvest, so delivering them ASAP can be that difference that sets you apart from other growers. If your business model involves selling fresh fungi, same-day or the next day (at the latest) delivery should be a serious consideration.

Norman, how many pounds of mushrooms were you harvesting before COVID?

Before COVID, Woodland Jewel was rocking out anywhere from 300-500 pounds per week. They’ve had to taper down to half over the past two years of craziness and are just now crawling back up to speed. These Norman hopes to be in full swing within the next few months. The addition of medicinal tinctures is definitely playing a role in getting their business back on track; Norman is so stoked, “Yeah, these tinctures are huge, and we’ve had a lot of interests. That’s definitely something that I want to push in the near future!”

Over the past year, they had to let everyone go because the sales just haven’t been there. Oddly enough, this was a huge relief for the Fetter’s. It almost felt like they had to start all over again due to the pandemic. Although it’s been tough for Norman, it also has been refreshing. He has been doing everything himself these days, just like the first few years have helped them get back in touch with how things were in the beginning. But he does not want to do it all forever, either. “I want to get back to the point where we can bring some, some other people on board to help out, but I have had interns before. Yeah. It’s been great. Yeah, we’ve been really lucky.”

Although Woodland Jewel cannot accommodate farm tours at this time, I encourage you to check out their website at http://www.woodlandjewel.com. I especially enjoyed the Lion’s Mane grow kit video with Shaking it up with Shiitake as the encore.