Mushroom Farmers Spore Big With Help From Farming Entrepreneur Ecosystem – “Good Roots” April 2022
Trey Baucum and Zach Taylor saw an untapped niche at the local farmers market in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and they jumped in. What was missing at one of the country’s top 50 farmer’s markets? Mushrooms.
Ever since, the pair have been growing at their Fat Top Farm in Northwest Arkansas and seek to enrich people’s lives with mushrooms. These fungi offer numerous health, and the fresh versions taste quite a bit different than the canned varieties most commonly found at supermarkets.
Mushrooms need to be grown indoors with clean air, the right temperature and humidity. “In the beginning, we were good at growing mold,” Trey says. The duo eventually purchased a flow hood that provides clean air in their homemade lab in order to grow the mushrooms … and nothing else.
The whole process of growing mushrooms can take days or weeks depending on the variety. Fat Top Farm usually grows about six varieties that vary in size and color. Some are native species – such as the Lion’s Mane – that mushroom hunters seek out in the woods every spring, but Baucum and Taylor grow 100 percent of their mushrooms with precision indoors.
As their business grew and they began selling directly to chefs and at Farmer’s Markets, Fat Top Farm saw demand fluctuate, and they would be left with extra product that would go bad. For Baucum and Taylor, waste wasn’t acceptable. (The healthy compost pile at their farm speaks to their desire to operate in a sustainable fashion.)
To remedy the situation, local chef Matt Cooper of The Preachers Son in Bentonville, Arkansas, helped Fat Top Farm develop recipes for mushroom jerky and broth. In this process, the Arkansas Food Innovation Center has been an invaluable resource for the Baucum and Taylor as they produce and jump through numerous hoops to get their products approved to sell at a wholesale level. Non-profit The Food Conservancy has also been helping Fat Top Farm get their products on the shelves of supermarkets, including Harps and Whole Foods. With the upcoming Market Center of The Ozarks in Springdale, Arkansas, Fat Top Farm will have new resources to produce even more products and ways to help others fall in love with mushrooms as they have.
As their business has expanded, Baucum and Taylor have brought on numerous employees and are now looking at more land to grow the farm. Keep an eye out as they expand to meet the increasing demand in the niche they’ve found and to see how they’ve grown in a supportive Northwest Arkansas farming ecosystem.