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Biz owners' passion for mushrooms infectious
Ashley Gordon left “corporate America” to farm mushrooms. He does this at his indoor facility in Grand Island, Nebraska, the headquarters of Nebraska Mushroom.
With a background in anything but agriculture, one wonders from where his passion for this unique crop sprouts.
“I wanted to know the processes that were going on,” said Gordon. “In nature they just appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and quickly sometimes. In the next day or two they are gone. What were the processes going on that we don't know about and don't see? I wanted to understand the organism; most of [my knowledge] came from a lot of reading then I started growing them at home.”
Gordon’s knowledge is vast; as he explains the growing process, I stare in awe at the organisms growing right before my eyes. His enthusiasm is tangible when walking through Nebraska Mushroom’s warehouse, which houses rows upon rows of what first appears to be plastic bags full of dirt.
How can bags of dirt seem so exciting? Easy. When a business owner is truly fervent about what he or she creates or builds or grows, that passion is contagious. Gordon truly exemplifies the passionate business owner.
Leaving the nine-to-five world after experiencing aches, pains and burnout, Gordon took his hobby of cultivating mushrooms from his house to the commercial farming side in 2011. Both of his parents are entrepreneurs, so he was aware how much work owning his own business would be.
“Taking on the responsibility, the time you have to put in and the horrible pay, are all parts of being a business owner,” he said. “I still enjoy those things even though it can be trying.”
Gordon realizes that as the owner of a small business, you do a whole lot more than your craft. He calls this his juggling act.
“Not only do I grow mushrooms, but it's constant cleaning, paperwork, marketing and education,” Gordon said.
Nebraska Mushroom specializes in gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. While they are a commercial supplier, their mission is to keep things as local and sustainable as possible. They receive local hardwood trees to start their mulch-compost combination for the spawning process.
He hopes to start a composting program for local gardeners and farmers.
“We’re hoping our waste can be of use to farmers to be a viable source to grow more food off of,” Gordon said.
Selling unique products like gourmet and medicinal mushrooms requires educating their customers.
Mushrooms not only taste great, but they have health benefits as they are packed full of proteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antibiotics and antioxidants. Gordon has personally experienced some of the benefits first-hand. Before he started Nebraska Mushroom, he was diagnosed with arthritis. It was crippling to complete day-to-day tasks. He began using mushroom extract and witnessed his joint inflammation decrease.
This is something he shares with his customers through workshops, at farmers markets and with local Community Supported Agriculture programs. Gordon said he likes being a part of the local food movement. This spring, he will be teaching workshops in Lincoln.
His business has already evolved from where he started, and he only intends to evolve more. “Initially we just wanted to grow mushrooms,” Gordon said. “Now we’re trying to grow the business into being more like a seed producer. This will give other farmers a chance to add a value-crop like mushrooms to their operation.”
The farmers would be in charge of the entire fruiting process. Gordon said he has so many varieties he wants to grow, he’d like to spread the fruiting around, have affiliate farms that source their materials through his company and grow their own mushrooms.
To find out where you can get your Nebraska Mushrooms, visit their website, nebraskamushroom.com.
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