A Nampa Christian middle school student’s passion for growing edible mushrooms germinated in 8th grade — when he decided to grow a few for a science project.
While the scientific project failed – as he didn’t make it past the early stages of mushroom cultivation – his drive to become a successful mushroom grower stayed with him.
Today, 20-year-old Brody Ferguson runs his mushroom farm – Ferg’s Fabulous Fungi – in Greenleaf, Idaho, and sells his produce at several farmers markets, online, and to several local restaurants, including Alavita, KIN, and High Note Cafe.
Scientific experiment on sustainable management
“Through high school I said I never wanted to be a mushroom grower for a living, it’s just an odd personality, but here I am doing it full-time now and I love it!” said Ferguson.
After his scientific experiment, Ferguson spent several years learning and experimenting with the growing process.
“I also realized that I was the only person in the state doing what I was doing and it had the potential to grow into something pretty big!” he said. “After selling to a few restaurants for about a year, I officially started my business Ferg’s Fabulous Fungi.”
After high school, he earned his associate’s degree in Ag Business from the College of Western Idaho. Then, last spring, he decided to devote his time and energy to growing his business.
fungal growth process
“The whole mushroom growing process can be quite complex as everything is grown in a fully controlled environment,” he said.
First, Ferguson said he’s starting out by making sawdust-based blocks that are hydrated, sterilized, and placed in a sterile lab environment where the mushroom mycelium (root system) is introduced. Depending on the species, it then takes two weeks to two months for these blocks of sawdust to fully grow out. Then a completely colonized block is cut open and introduced into the environment of the growth room. The grow room has full spectrum lighting and is around 65 degrees year-round and 80-90% relative humidity.
“Southwest Idaho can be a challenging climate to keep conditions perfect and often requires some ingenuity to achieve adequate heating, cooling and humidification,” he said. “The fresh oxygen, humidity, and slight change in temperature stimulate the fungal block to begin forming baby fungi, or primordia. These baby mushrooms will grow fast, doubling daily and typically ripening in 1-2 weeks!”
Breed your own
“All in all, growing mushrooms can be fun and easy with my ready-to-use Mushroom Grow Kits,” Ferguson said. “It’s as easy as cut, squirt, pick up and repeat!”
The grow kits come with a fully grown substrate block, a squeeze bottle and an instruction sheet. Types of mushrooms you can grow include oyster mushrooms, lion’s mane, and pioppinos – all of which can be grown in a home setting.
“I’m making these kits so anyone can enjoy the activity of growing their own delicious mushrooms on their kitchen counter in just 9 days!” he said. “One of my favorite things to do is hear people’s excitement when they come back after growing their own mushrooms.”
Kits and more are available here or at a discount at Boise Farmers Market, Capital City Farmers Market, or local pickup.
“So yeah, it’s crazy to say I turned an 8th grade science project into a full-time job, but I guess as long as you love it and are good at it, why stop!” he said. “I believe the industry will continue to grow, so I plan to keep doing what I’m doing and expand as soon as possible!”