Diversifying from livestock into gourmet mushrooms such as Shiitake and King Oyster has opened up new horizons for Keri and Julie Davies.
The couple turned 100 acres of their 320-acre beef and lamb farm in the Brecon Beacons over to organic fungi this year and are now supplying local restaurants and farmers’ markets.
They were discouraged from growing white button mushrooms by the set-up costs of a large-scale operation and the narrow profit margins, but settled for gourmet varieties grown on oak sawdust with their associated health benefits and premium quality and price.
With a grant from government agricultural adviser Farming Connect, a firm business plan and advice from local specialist mushroom grower Humungus Fungus, the couple installed growing, incubation and sterilisation rooms and packaging areas. Now they are producing their own mushroom spawn and plan to add more varieties.
The main competition is from Chinese specialist mushrooms, which are less fresh, not organic and don’t offer the same traceability, claims Keri Davies.
“Organic status gives our mushrooms a point of difference from the Chinese product, which sells for about £8 at retail against £12-13 for ours. They are very flavoursome with high nutritional value, cholesterol-lowering properties and are a tremendous protein source.”
Davies hopes to produce more than a tonne of gourmet mushrooms a month at full production, all year round.
“We have the advantage of having built this on a stable environment of diversification rather than the great risk of borrowed money.”
Greg Meenehan