The Rapidian

Locally grown gourmet mushrooms on the way to consumers, restaurants

The Urban Mushroom is growing a hobby into a full offering of gourmet mushrooms through their CSA program and the farmers market. They also have sights set on creative non-edible uses for the magical mycelium.
Golden Oyster mushrooms almost ready for harvest in The Urban Mushroom's grow room.

Golden Oyster mushrooms almost ready for harvest in The Urban Mushroom's grow room. /Jon Dunn

Trever Clark proudly poses with a bountiful harvest.

Trever Clark proudly poses with a bountiful harvest. /Trever Clark

/Trever Clark/The Urban Mushroom

Trever Clark, founder of The Urban Mushroom, is passionate about mushrooms and it shows. He’s still pretty new to the fungus game, but he speaks so knowledgably about growing mushrooms and all the applications of them, one may think he’s been doing it for a lifetime.

Clark cut his teeth as a hobbyist while living in a Costa Rican beach house. He came back to Grand Rapids in 2013 and the hobby grew a little more, eventually growing enough quality mushrooms to sell to Bartertown Diner and CVLT Pizza. He began to realize that there were no mushroom companies in the area and he seized the opportunity. He very recently made the official head-first plunge into mushrooms, saying goodbye to his digital marketing job at Yahoo. Such a life-changing move might make some worried, but not Clark.

“We’ve had so much interest and excitement about this already, I really feel like it’s just a matter of time before we’re profitable,” Clark said.

The Urban Mushroom is currently renting space in the industrial section on the city’s southwest side. The group of four founders has created a space to inoculate pasteurized straw with the mushroom spores; an incubation room with ideal conditions to grow the fledging fungus and a sealed grow room complete with humidifiers to ensure the best growth. It’s an impressive and still very DIY operation that is currently producing 500 pounds of mushrooms a month. By the end of summer, though, they expect that to increase to 1,000 pounds. 

“Right now we’re growing Golden Oyster and Grey Dove Oyster Mushrooms,” said Clark, “Soon we’ll also be growing the King and Polar White Oyster varieties.” By mid-summer The Urban Mushroom will also move into Lion’s Mane and Shiitake. “They’re a little more complicated to grow, so we’ll need to do some more work to trick them into fruiting,” he said.

The Urban Mushroom will be selling their produce at the Fulton Street Farmers Market. However, for anyone not wishing to wait until they join the market vendors, they are offering the ability now to buy a share of the upcoming harvests through a CSA. They’re also planning on an upcoming crowd-funding project. The money will help to expand the production and to buy a commercial autoclave for larger sterilization capabilities.

If you think this is all about mushrooms for the kitchen, you can think again. Mycelium, the vegetative part of the mushroom, has pretty incredible abilities. The Urban Mushroom expects to be able to have another division of the business using the fungus to clean up polluted land.

“Even the land behind this building: the soil has just been destroyed from this being an industrial area. We can breed mushrooms to eat the toxins,” he said. The mushrooms feed off the toxins, and then the toxins have been broken down to a level so the mushroom is then safe to compost.

And if all that wasn’t enough, Clark sees big opportunities elsewhere, such as using fungus to create packing materials. He points to those very environmentally unfriendly packing peanuts saying they could be made from fungus. He references Ecovative (that company’s founder, Sam Harrington, spoke at TEDxGrandRapids in 2011. You can view the talk here.) as an example of how mycelium can be grown into completely renewable packing materials.

“Those things are one use and they go to the landfill. With mycelium, you get it wet, throw it into the landfill and it’s gone in a couple of weeks,” he said. Though not yet sure if they’re going to head down that path, Clark they’re keeping the door open. 

Learn more about the company and all they have on offer, including the CSA, by visiting their website

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