Cultivating Mushrooms for Health and Hunger
Ash Gordon arrives at a nondescript warehouse next to the Central Nebraska Regional Airport around 5am. Inside the aging metal building, Gordon cultivates more than twenty varieties of mushrooms.
From edible King Oyster — which he loves grilled just like a Nebraska steak — to medicinal Reishi, it’s a fast growing business. Gordon credits the Reishi mushroom with healing his arthritis, bad enough in his twenties to keep him from doing the kind of physical work growing these mushrooms now requires. At times he could barely tie his shoes.
He needed a more natural way to heal his body than traditional pharmaceuticals with all of their side effects, and he found it in a fungus. These days he moves effortlessly from one end of his farming operation to the other.
Gordon was originally fascinated by how mushrooms could appear overnight. His first step towards growing his own was to do some reading. Eventually he and a business partner began Nebraska Mushroom. His partner decided down the line that mushrooms weren’t his calling, but Gordon pressed on and grew the business.
Gordon thinks of cultivating mushrooms as a craft.
His mom helps out now, and one or two other employees help to continually fill packages with oyster, king, shiitake, and many other varieties. Gordon thinks of cultivating mushrooms as a craft. Yes, there is a lot of science involved, but it takes constant troubleshooting. Recipes are continually being tweaked and his controlled environments for cultures, colonization and fruiting the mushrooms change almost monthly in an effort to grow better mushrooms more efficiently. Gordon makes a lot of his own equipment; as a startup he didn’t have the money to buy it, and he likes the crafting and tinkering of it regardless.
Restaurants are his primary customers, but a lot of sales were made at regional farmer’s markets over the past few years. In 2014, Nebraska Mushroom joined the Nebraska Food Cooperative which distributes the mushrooms and keeps Gordon on the farm, so to speak, instead of being on the road as much.
Gordon has ended up with more work than he originally intended. He’s making and selling tinctures from the medicinal mushrooms, something he thought customers who bought the mushrooms would do themselves. Really, he’d like to be the catalyst for a mushroom growing movement in the region, providing what others need to cultivate their own crops.