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Slow Spotlight: Ozark Forest Mushrooms

November 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Farmers, Farmers' Market, Featured, Slow Spotlight

Ozark Forest Mushrooms: The Integration of Forest and Farm – by Alix Simnock

Ozark Forest Mushrooms are grown on the Hellmuth family farm, Timber Farms The Sinks, located in what the Nature Conservancy designated as one of the “Last Great Places” along Sinking Creek in the Missouri Ozark Big Springs Region.

Nicola Macpherson, the owner of Ozark Forest Mushrooms specializes in growing oak-log shiitake mushrooms. The oak logs are harvested following a strict sustainable forestry protocol that includes practicing “rotational thinning” and is administered by the Missouri Dept of Conservation. When the family began following these practices for the benefit of their forest land, the question of what to do with the tree tops wood was posed. Lucky for us the answer was
to grow mushrooms! The farm utilizes a “slow” growing method that provides “meaty and woodsy” tasting mushrooms, says Macpherson, especially compared to sawdust grown supermarket varieties. You can taste the difference! They integrate permaculture principles and have created a holistic system where mushroom spent logs heat the greenhouse for winter production and creates compost for their vegetable garden. There are very few commercial oak
log shiitake mushroom farms that exist like this in the US. and truly need to be supported as a Slow Food!

Their mushrooms are also heirloom varieties. Snowcap which only fruits in the spring and fall, large meaty caps the size of portabellas you can’t find these in a supermarket!! Ozark Forest uses organic processes but they are not certified organic, they also employ a local workforce for woodcutting, inoculation, production, harvesting and packaging of value added products which contributes to the local rural economy of Shannon County in the Ozarks.

In addition to mushroom production; they grow greens, vegetables and wild edibles to turn into pestos, pickles and condiments. Local food enthusiasts will be excited to hear that the farm is presently experimenting with a truffle orchard in conjunction with the University of Missouri-Columbia through a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grant.

As if that was not enough, they also offer ecological holidays including tours and a vacation getaway spot at the Beaver Lake Guesthouse. This holiday home is ideal for foodies as it is situated on their farm, and for nature lovers to come and appreciate the beautiful Ozarks. This four person home was built with stone sourced from the farm and is temperature-controlled by a unique geothermal heat pump that uses the lake to heat and cool the house. Vacationing here gives you days to explore the lake, forest and creek and nights to bbq under the stars, while being surrounded by Ozark wildlife, humming birds, bald eagles, herons, ducks, and beavers.

To find out more about Ozark Forest Mushrooms or about booking your getaway at the Beaver Lake Guesthouse, please check out their websites or contact Nicola Macpherson at nicola@ozarkforest.com. You can find Ozark Forest Mushroom products at the Schlafly Farmers Market, Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, Fair Shares CSA and Local Harvest Grocery Store.

The Slow Spotlight is a series of regular blog posts exploring the story of our food. The series reports on local farms, “slow” food products/businesses, and the preservation (or creation) of food traditions with occasional coverage of relevant organizations, issues, and events.

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