By: Richard DiSanto
Did you know that we have a farm that solely focuses on mushrooms here in central New York? I didn’t either until I found out about Fruit of the Fungi in Lebanon, New York – just short of an hour away from Syracuse.
KC and Kristi Mangine, the owners of Fruit of the Fungi, from the Syracuse area, started this venture back in 2007 with 300 shiitake logs and some farmland. Surprisingly, or maybe not depending on your knowledge of agriculture, mushroom farming doesn’t require much land – they use less than an acre currently. But when they began their venture, the farm had a little bit of everything: flowers, vegetables, animals, eggs, and baked goods were all a part of the business early on. In 2008, they set up at farmer’s markets and noticed early that their mushrooms stood out to people. By about 2011 or 2012, they had phased out everything that wasn’t mushrooms from their farm and plan, going to work on their new focus.
KC and Kristi worked on the farm part-time until 2015, when they had a grow room built; meaning there would be year-round cultivating of mushrooms. KC went to work on the business full-time, and Kristi returned to her career full-time (while helping as much as possible when she wasn’t at work). They have only needed to hire one employee, Jeffie, to help manage the work. With the grow room added, they now had a much more consistent supply and quality of their product, which helped their business boom. They sell to local restaurants, Side Hill Farmers Meats & Market in Manlius, and other stores scattered throughout the area, and again, soon to be a part of the Syracuse Cooperative Grocery at the Salt City Market. They are also at the regional market every Saturday, pandemic included, so go and pay them a visit!
Before I had spoken with KC, I never knew that mushrooms were the only land-based source of vitamin D, and they have cognitive-based benefits to making them a regular part of the diet and are just overall beneficially nutritious. These facts becoming more well-known are certainly a big part of why the mushroom business started booming, and once covid hit, more people started mushroom consumption as means to building up their immune systems. Mushrooms tea has also taken off in this health craze for the same benefits as regular consumption of mushrooms – another use of mushrooms I had never heard of before now, and hope others also learn of from reading this! Fruit of the Fungi also sells mushroom powders, which are used as finishing of dishes, and can be used as a type of seasoning while preparing a dish as well.
Right now, they are only selling dried mushrooms, mushroom teas, and mushroom powders in the retail spaces they are in but are working on packaging for their mushrooms to be sold fresh as well. This is a process due to price point and size working for both small stores and smaller stores, so, if you’re interested in trying their fresh mushrooms, the best chance you’ll have is a direct-to-customer route: at the regional market, or online at nymushrooms.com. You can also buy an embroidered beanie on their website if you want to show them even more support as well. The future is looking bright for the Fruit of the Fungi crew, so be sure to give them a follow on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/fruit.of.the.fungi/) and Instagram (@ny_mushroom_company) and keep watch of their new products and retail packages!