Today I made it to downtown St Louis and met with Henry (son) and Nicola (mother) Macpherson, the owners of Ozar Forest Mushroom Farm. It was a super quick visit crammed-packed with information. I squeezed through the hustle and bustle as they unloaded inoculated substrate bags from the bed of a cargo van into a temporary greenhouse. He explained that a typical week for them is packed full of deliveries to restaurants Monday through Friday, from 8 am till 4 pm.
Visiting with Nuke Anue, owner of Africa Naturals, was inspiring. This store is a family-run business that offers local price matching, and they have been in business for four years. A portion of the proceeds “helps to provide healthcare and empower families in Africa.” The shelves are lined with hundreds of natural, organic specialty health products from Africa and the United States.
ZERI Certified Practitioner since 2003, Green Entrepreneur of the Year, Brandon Pitcher, is the genius behind Blue Circle Farms (BCF) of Kokomo, Indiana. They specialize in hemp production for consumption and white label products. Rebecca Minna, owner of Skokomish Ridge Farm, pointed me in Brandon’s direction. She described Brandon as an expert in the agricultural business – the mentor of all mentors.
Eric Rose and his family have made a huge impact sustainably farming for over 40 years at River Valley Ranch. In the 80s and 90s. In Chicago, Illinois, Bill Rose, Eric’s father, originally owned and operated a high-end French-based cuisine restaurant. “At the time, it was nearly impossible to get fresh mushrooms in the Midwest; most restaurants were using canned mushrooms that weren’t very good. One mushroom farmer seemed like a good supplier for Bill, but after the farmer inherited a huge plot of land and sold it off for a big chunk of money, his mushroom business became an afterthought,” i
Rising Pheasant Farms is a for-profit, agricultural, family-run business owned by husband and wife Carolyn Leadly and Jack VanDyke. Carolyn is the farm manager, and Jack oversees accounting and is the distribution manager. It all started in 2009 in their attack. Now they serve a host of Detroit restaurants and farmer’s markets. They specialize in growing microgreens and shoots.
Met with Ron, the owner of Stadler Farms in Monroe Michigan, today, and we had a quick chat. His farm has been in the family since 1896, making it a centennial farm. They mainly focus on cash crops, growing corn and soybeans and they offset it during the summertime with vegetables. This Spring, the Farms’ greenhouses will be busting the rim with many varieties of veggies and herbs.
Jentzen Farm is a four-generation farm based out of Monroe, Michigan. They procure over 50 items under sustainable practices. Parts of the fields are cover crops as a means to give back to the soil. “The field never looks the same from one year to the next, as a result of crop rotations, and allows for maximum use of soil nutrients. Different crops use different nutrients and are also at risk of different disease cycles. This rotation allows for two to three years of production before the soil is rested.”
Brandon and his wife, Jordan Krystowski, began growing mushrooms right before COVID hit really hard. Erie Shore Seeds and Spores started out as a part-time gig because Brandon and his wife were already growing their vegetables. Jordan is a culinary instructor at Lorain County Joint Vocational School in Oberlin, Ohio, where she originally went to school. Brandon was working the third shift in the factory as a process engineer and supervisor. The couple was looking for additional income and a way to grow into their own business. Brandon wanted to get away from production and the factory. He wanted to be back outside growing things, so he started cultivating mushrooms as a hobby.