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The Youngest Gourmet Mushroom Farmer Started Ferg’s Fabulious Fungi at Age 14

Brody Ferguson | Greenleaf, Idaho

Danielle: Hello, we’re in a Greenleaf, ID population 800 (located 30 miles west of Boise). I’m here with Brody who is the owner of Ferg’s Fabulous Fungi. When did you start mushroom farming?  

Brody: It all started six years ago with an eighth-grade science project.  

And now it is blown up to quite the operation. Do you mind giving us a tour?   

Let’s start over here in the prep room, where we keep all the supplies and refrigeration. We will probably build a walk-in cooler here this summer. Here is a pressure cooker for doing spawn. This over here is kind of the heart of the operation; the lab room where most of the process gets done. This is the culture fridge with all kinds of petri dishes, test tube slants, and grain spawn. That’s where all the cultures start and grow out.   

Here what I am doing is taking the mushroom mycelium, growing it out, and giving it nutrients all the way up to sawdust blocks to where it finally has enough nutrients to fruit the mushroom. The new blocks come in, I do all my sterilization in front of the flow hood to avoid any contamination. The bags get stacked, labeled, and incubate for about four weeks, depending on the species. Some mushrooms may take longer and others a little bit shorter.    

Once they finish out incubation in here, they get moved out to the grow room which is the next room over. The grow room is modified from a walk-in cooler. We can make up to 200 to 300 pounds of mushrooms a week out of here.  

And any specific temperature you keep it?  

Yeah, we try to keep this at about 65 degrees, but in the middle of summer, it is tough. It is not uncommon to be in the hundreds every day for a week or two, so we need to set up more grow room this year to rotate species out a little bit to make sure everything’s still doing good. Ideally, I’d like to get a couple of grow room setups to really cater to meeting the requirements for different species. Right now, we’re growing as much as we can as fast as we can.   

These shelves are cool; is this something you designed?  

Yeah, this is all just designed from scratch and pieced together. As you can see, I just used PVC and hardwood or redwood wood, so it doesn’t mold. You definitely don’t want mold in your grow rooms, obviously.   

This has a high-pressure humidity system attached, and it can take this room from 0% relative humidity to about 100% relative humidity in less than 10 minutes. The room can get filled up with fog.  

Everything is custom and that’s kind of the way you have to do it with being a mushroom grower. There are no set standards out there for a lot of this stuff. So, you kind of design and make as you go.  

Who trained you?    

I’m like totally self-taught. Especially when I started, because now YouTube videos make it easy for people to hobby grow mushrooms. The hard part is the art and the science of it. You can make mushrooms grow, but to actually know what you’re doing with growing mushrooms that’s a whole different story.  

Alright, so I want to give some shout-outs to people that you follow on YouTube.  

Oh man, it’s tough. That’s something I’ve been wanting to do more, I’ve been kind of out of touch from the whole scene. I used to know the majority of the mushroom growers in the United States. I need to work on my social networking a little bit more than I am right now.   

For me, it’s just reading as much as you can, finding as much information as you can. I’ve learned more from failures than anything, honestly, like you just have to learn from your failures and move forward from that.   

What do you do with those crates that I noticed outside?  

These crates are heavy-duty. They can withstand really high temperatures when they go in the Steam Room, where I use atmospheric steam. Everything has to be sterilized in order to grow mushrooms. You can either go an atmospheric route, which is steam ultra-pasteurization or you can do a pressure-cooking route.   

My setup is based around that atmospheric level, so these crates have to withstand 200 degrees steam, they hold up great. We pack 40 to 60 blocks in one of these things and load it up in the in the big steam room and sterilize it for 8 to 10 hours. Then the blocks get moved into a lab room where they all get inoculated.   

I’m super stoked to actually salvage these Pharmaceutical Grade HEPA filters that were going to go to the junkyard. I’ve used that for literally the last 5 or 6 years and they still work fine. There’s nothing wrong with it, but these will be absolutely amazing. I mean six feet of just straight filter!  

How did you find the crates?  

I just literally kept my eye out, they’re just sitting kind of in an old, like online auction, junkyard thing. They didn’t even post them on the auction because there was not any demand for them. So basically, they just gonna junk them. I just happened to be around the area and saw them sitting there and I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’   

I picked them up. I pretty much just got them off their hands and salvaged them. For the most part, they work great, I might have to replace the filter on them because they’re, this one’s like eight years old, that one is like 15 years old. They need a little bit of TLC, but for the most part, they are pretty clean units.   

That’s awesome. They were meant for you.