Finding room for growth in the dark.
Liz Richards and Emily Bragonier followed their dream of starting a small farm in the fertile Upper Valley. Knowing that the region hardly needed more pumpkins, they researched local needs and decided to establish Terra Fructi (loosely translated as earth fruit) to fill a niche for naturally produced gourmet and medicinal mushrooms.
They admit much of their knowledge on the subject is from books, but local mushroom expert Dave Wichland has given them some advice and direction, and they are more than up for the venture.
“We started with oyster mushrooms simply because they are the easiest to culture,” says Liz. The women have leased a warehouse in Westmoreland and built it out for the simple needs required to grow mushrooms. One room is for cultivating spores and the other is for growing the mushrooms that develop from spore to fruit relatively quickly, in just three weeks. Once a substrate is inoculated with spores and bagged, the container is held at 60 degrees to fruit. The substrate, straw, was boiled first to eliminate bacteria that likes to grow in a similar environment.
Other mushrooms that Terra Fructi plans to culture are Lion’s Mane and Reishi. The former is edible but also purportedly has medicinal value as an anti-inflamatory, and the later is strictly medicinal. Eventually they plan on culturing shiitake, maitake, king oyster, portobello and porcini.
Liz has a degree in sustainable systems and hopes to actually grow something in real dirt, fresh air and the shining sun once they have mastered this challenge.
Terra Fructi plans on bringing their mushrooms to the Keene farmers market and has made connections at the matchmaking event held in January sponsored by Hannah Grimes in Keene.
— Susan Laughin