Meet the mushroom farmer – Fresh stories from the farm

I grew up on a chicken farm in New South  Wales and when I was about eight years old my parents decided for some crazy  reason to convert it to mushroom sheds. So pretty much I just learned to love it and  it just became something that was in my blood. I have a group of, just in the harvesters  alone, about 130 female workers and they range from anywhere from 19 up to late 60s. All  these women come from different backgrounds their different nationalities but they come every  day with a smile on their face and they work really hard to support their families. As the largest supply of mushrooms to Woolworths we have a very strong relationship. We harvest based on the Woolworth’s supply and we can pick up to 16 tonne a day  of mushrooms that’s all hand-picked. I’d probably say with mushroom farming  it’s science-based but it’s also gut feel. Mushrooms themselves are very  sensitive so it’s a very controlled environment just to ensure that they’re happy. We produce the compost and we send about 600 tonnes of compost from that yard to this site  every week. We put it through a tunnel complex and in those tunnels we do the pasteurisation and  also the spawning of the compost and then we start the process of growing the mushrooms indoors.  It’s 14 days before we start harvesting. Once you harvest the mushrooms they’re picked packed  chilled and they’re on your table within 24 hours. During the bush fires all the borders were  closed for us and we were unable to get raw materials like our spawn through and we couldn’t  get any support supply from the other farms on the east coast. Then on top of that we’ve been  suffering under the drought since last October which affected the straw which is essential to  growing mushrooms. Then COVID in early January, first it was quite scary because obviously  everyone just wanted to be home with their children who couldn’t go to school. So it meant  that we had to bring on a lot more employees just to try and maintain the day-to-day operations. It was a pretty hard time for us to begin with and now we’ve been going through it for months. Yeah. The team just pulled together the hours were longer the days were harder but we got through  it because everyone knew the reason we needed to do it. Biggest thing now is just to ensure that  we maintain the quality can meet the standards that are required for Woolworths customers. Woolworths was a great support during this time, not only did they give us the sense of security  that we knew we could harvest and supply them, they also had store managers come to site  and they could see what we’re going through. I would say my outlook is extremely  positive not only because the demand for mushrooms is high, people are realising  that there’s such a great food to eat, on top of that we’re employing more  people so we’re supporting the community to ensure that they can keep  working through those hard times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.