Natural Times, July/August/September 2015
By Michele Hatton
Ever wonder where those succulent shiitake mushrooms at New Leaf come from? What about the oyster mushrooms—the color of pink flamingos—that we see sometimes?
These mushrooms are grown at Lake Seminole Farm, a shiitake and oyster mushroom farm in rural South Georgia. David Krause owns the land there—15 acres of woodlands that slope right down to beautiful Lake Seminole where the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers converge and the Apalachicola begins—the perfect habitat for mycobiota, microscopic flora and fauna.
David lives here with his family; his house peeks out from among the limbs and vines of the woods, but up the driveway are the ordered operations of the farm. David started the farm two-and-a-half years ago and now owns it together with friend and partner, Breck Dalton, a former geological environmental consultant. “We first tried it as a pilot project to see if the environment here was good for these type mushrooms.” Krause suspected it might be, since he and his family had been harvesting edible wild mushrooms here for several years (golden chanterelles, puff balls, bearded tooth...). Growing mushrooms, however, is complicated work, “Up north is where most of the shiitake growing is happening. It’s different down here. We’re having to learn a whole lot of lessons.” But the two have managed to turn this “experiment” into a 4,000 shiitake log operation, and in April 2014, the farm received USDA organic certification.
David Krause comes to the world of fungi honestly. Holding a doctorate in public health and toxicology, he’s very familiar with the enigmatic lives of fungi. His graduate thesis focused on the tenacity of these organisms—they break down certain building materials in our homes and offices, releasing harmful toxins in the process. David also served as our state toxicologist. Breck comes to the table after over three decades of studying and foraging for wild mushrooms, inspired when on a family trip to Finland. His studies include workshops with renowned local mycologist, Bill Petty (search “Florida Fungi” on the internet).
As they manage the farm together, Breck handles more of the day-to-day operations. David continues to work full time as an environmental consultant. You might say David is one of those types driven to take on new endeavors, to dive down deep, and care for his community in the process.
David and I chatted under the heavy shade of the shiitake-laying yard. “Shiitakes need dappled light,” David remarked, his bees humming above. In the laying yard, hundreds of cut hardwood logs, inoculated with shiitake spore, are stacked neatly in a log cabin-style pattern. Here they “rest” while mycelia furiously colonize the wood, turning the logs into mushroom-making machines. It takes six to seven months before fruiting begins. (Many of the trees harvested for these logs were procured from a neighbor’s pine planting farm—also organically certified—whose hardwoods would normally be cut and burned or left to rot. David and Breck’s farm is a testament to sustainability!)
In the workroom, a different operation was under way—the production of oyster mushrooms. There, lining the shelves, were round, squat bags sprouting frilly pink mushrooms. Dr. Seuss, take a seat! But oyster mushrooms are grown this way. David and Breck stuff recycled ice bags with pasteurized straw, inoculate them with spore, and then store them in a climate-controlled growing room. Unlike shiitakes, oyster mushrooms bloom out in a dazzling profusion within two to three weeks.
You can buy the farm’s fresh and dried mushrooms at Tomato Land and New Leaf. At the Miccosukee Root Cellar, enjoy them in a beer-batter tempura; at Cypress, in a bowl of shiitake mushroom soup; or at Sweet Pea Café, for weekend brunch. David reminds us that shiitakes make a tasty meat substitute. “They have some great proteins,” he says. They also retain their nutritional value when eaten powdered or dried. The families of both farmers use ground shiitake stems as a condiment, sprinkling it on everything from scrambled eggs to soup—adding a rich umami flavor. “Our son puts it on everything,” Breck adds.
Don’t miss a visit to the farm during New Leaf’s 8th Annual Farm Tour, on Saturday, October 24. The Tennessee fainting goats will keep the kids occupied while you learn about the magical world of mushrooms. Consider returning home with your own inoculated shiitake log.