Nov. 21—ROCHESTER — As he grows his mushroom farm, Jeremy Herdrich wants to have an impact on his community and "change the paradigm of what farming should be."
"It's not this mystical knowledge that's passed down, really it should be openly shared and freely with everybody," Herdrich said in his second year operating Frozen Cap Mushroom Farm in Rochester.
He said growing mushrooms is easy enough that he believes anyone can grow them. It comes easily for him to educate people on mushrooms, such as the white button mushrooms pulled from grocery store shelves sharing the "same family" as a portobello mushroom. Or the fluffy feel of different varieties of mushrooms, and the smells like roses and the ocean. From his farm to local community cooperatives, families' tables and restaurants' dining rooms, his goal is to provide fresh mushrooms.
Herdrich started in agriculture "from the drop, I've always been gardening," he said of being raised on a commune near the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. He grew into helping people start their own urban farms and followed his own "evolution" of learning about urban development and urban agriculture to cultivate his first mushrooms in his Rochester backyard.
At his farm, his crops aren't in rows or even in a field. The mushrooms mature in bags in the light, humidity and temperature-controlled environment of his basement. From strands of oyster mushrooms to the fruiting pink and gold oyster mushrooms, he's "branched out with confidence and consistency" to 85 varieties with their own flavor and texture.
"The process that I follow isn't something that I came up with it's a process that other people have shown me so anybody can do it. I grow in a controlled environment downstairs in my basement for right now," Herdrich said. "It's really important to me to be able to source everything hyper-local. So everything that I get, my grain, everything is within a 50-mile reach of Rochester."
With varieties grown seasonally, the mushrooms form in a matter of weeks. He chooses to see the beauty of fungi: "Always amazed at the beauty of fungi and the gifts from Mother Nature," he reflected on social media.
"I love my black pearls. Black pears are amazing. It's like a mix between a king trumpet and a black oyster," Herdrich said. "It is very umami, buttery flavors and the texture holds up fantastic, like the king trumpets."
In one grow you'll find 36 to 72 bags, and Herdrich's excitement for the "epic" and "monster" grows. The varieties include the "baby formation" of the snow white oyster and the "meat-like structure" of the lions mane. Some of his cold varieties are king blue oyster and blue smoke.
"The cool thing about mushrooms is that once you have one mushroom, you have mushrooms indefinite as long as you follow the process," Herdrich said.
While growing mushrooms for four and a half years, he carries the perspective of planting, learning, observing and experimenting in the process. He's also learned the poor quality of water in Rochester.
"We harvest early. We harvest so that the caps don't flatten out. Whenever the caps start to flatten out the mushroom loses some of its vigorousness, some of the flavors are muted and some of the textures do change," Herdrich explained. The spent blocks, beneath where the mushrooms grow in bags, are donated to organizations such as
The Village Agricultural Cooperative.
With a bachelor's degree in nutrition and an emphasis in holistic practices, Herdrich hopes to expand to medicinal mushrooms and varieties such as pioppino and chestnut. He also sells dehydrated mushrooms.
"There is an art to it," Herdrich said of growing gourmet mushrooms. "A lot of mushroom growers grow by weight ... but we can do better when there's no shelf life. We tend to grow for taste, texture and shelf life."
Across the shelves of the People's Food Co-Op and soon The Greensted in Zumbrota, Herdrich said he enjoys sharing his mushrooms with the community. He partners with the Co-Op, Crave and Latitude 44 in wholesale and restaurant sales as well as Forager Brewery for special events. Herdrich said Forager has a "big impact on their local community and that's just what I jive on 100%."
In his farming journey, he chooses to move "upward and onward." And he encourages people with hashtags like "be the best you," "grow your own food" and "you can too."
"For me, it's all about adapting and overcoming and just always trying to be better, otherwise you succumb to the situation and that's not life to me," Herdrich said. "Life should be challenging, life should be colorful, life should be loving and life should be fearful but if you're just stagnant, I mean, that's not life."
On a recent Thursday afternoon, Herdrich toted 20 pounds of blue oyster mushrooms to the
recently opened Latitude 44 restaurant in The Castle.
The mushrooms will meld into the mushroom melt, mushroom risotto and stuffed chicken with notes of anise or black licorice, said Reide Martin, known as Chef Spiccoli. The locally sourced menu of modern American dishes also includes products from Featherstone Farm in Rushford and Hiawatha Honey in Rochester.
While appreciating the energy of restaurant openings, Herdrich said "really what's most important is just seeing that organic expression that somebody has like eating a mushroom for the first time or experience an amazing dish."
"I just love the versatility (of mushrooms). They can be a great substitute for proteins for texturally. I love the aroma. I love how they look. I mean they're just so beautiful, it's nature at its finest, right?" Chef Spiccoli said. "When we can't find those things out in the woods ... the next best option is finding somebody that can produce premium product."
As a forager and "mushroom fanatic," Chef Spiccoli enjoys creating recipes with different mushrooms and expanding people's knowledge of mushrooms. He said there are thousands of mushroom varieties in the "phenomenal world of mushrooms."
"It just makes me feel like I'm out in nature, right," Chef Spiccoli described of cooking with mushrooms. "When I get them in, it's just all the feels, the looks, the smells and being able to bring that to your plate just like really brings my personality into the plate, I guess."
While supporting businesses such as The Village Farmers Market,
Rootz of Inspiration
The Machine Shed,
Herdrich sees giving back to Rochester as a necessity.
"There's a saying that resonates pretty deeply with me is, 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world,'" Herdrich said. "Instead of sitting there saying I want this to change and that one to change, is that I'll just live that lifestyle and build my community up to ... the people that resonate with what I resonate with and that's just contagious and that continues on."