SPRINGVALE – Thump. Thump. Thump. Is this what a mushroom farm sounds like?

Sometimes, yes, as on this sunny June morning at Mousam Valley Organic Mushrooms, whose renovated dairy barn and 12-acre spread are set amid the rolling green countryside just south of Sanford center.

In the farmyard, from the barn’s upper level, grow manager Devin Stehlin is tossing richly earthy, loaf-shaped lumps down into a truck bed. These are substrate blocks, made from locally sourced wood chips, grains, cotton seed hulls and straw, and the mushrooms grow out of them in Mousam Valley’s six fruiting rooms, a different variety (from among the dozen or so the farm grows and distributes) in each.

The spent (i.e. no longer producing) blocks are sent to nearby farms for use as valuable compost, sales and marketing director Emily Sharood explains. The compost contribution is part of the business’s mutually supportive relationships with about 18 other Maine farms, and highlights the strength of Mousam Valley’s local identity.

“Organically grown and locally owned,” it is a family farm. Dad John Sharood, whose background is in consulting for software systems start-ups, is president. Emily myco-farms with her brother, Robert Sharood, whose love of foraging in the surrounding southern Maine woods and fields started him growing mushrooms, and ultimately led to the founding of the business five years ago.

Robert is research and development/quality control specialist, and it’s fair to say that Mousam Valley’s methods, philosophy and goal – “to grow superior mushrooms as close to wild as possible” – were inspired by him.

Aron Gonsalves, operations manager and the fourth member of the Mousam Valley team, is also a passionate mycologist (one with an advanced culinary degree). He gives a brief tour of the fruiting rooms, where mushrooms begin to emerge (“fruit out”) after about three weeks.

Five to seven days later, they are hand-harvested (as many as 2,000 pounds weekly) and packaged, and then made available for fresh “picking” from the shelf at Hannaford and other stores, often in as little as 12 hours.

Shiitake and Italian Oyster are Mousam Valley’s best sellers. Varieties tend to have poetic names related to their appearance. Butter Oyster is a delicate yellow. Cinnamon Caps’ tops resemble tiny bakery buns. Katahdin Oyster, a native Maine wild strain, is cream-colored and woodsy-aromatic.

More products are planned to “fruit out” in the near future, Emily Sharood said. Creating a processing kitchen will allow Mousam Valley to sell not only sliced but also dehydrated mushrooms, for use as spices and seasonings and even in teas.

Within five years, expanding into the second barn and adding to the roster of 12 employees will help boost production to as much as 6,000 pounds weekly. And Mousam Valley will keep marching to its organic, locally-sourced, steady and sustainable beat. (Thump, thump, thump.)

(Please visit www.mousamvalleymushrooms.com, and the farm’s profile on Facebook.)

 

These monthly profiles are brought to you by Hannaford Supermarket, which has been partnering with local farmers since 1883.  Hannaford works with more than 800 farms and other food producers located near its stores.