There’s a least one person in Washington who didn’t mind the bleak, rain-soaked May: Zachari Curtis.
The owner of Good Sense Farm & Apiary, a small mushroom and honey operation on a private lot in Maryland, says the wet, gloomy weather has increased mushroom production by 20 percent.
That’s a good thing, particularly because on June 12, Curtis, 30, is opening a second, much larger production facility in D.C.’s Park View neighborhood to grow more mushrooms as well as microgreens.
“People always ask, ‘Where’s your farm?’ ” Curtis says. “Because I work on private land, I’ve never been able to really share it.”
The new, 7,200-square-foot space at 3400 Georgia Avenue — dubbed The Perch — will allow Curtis to keep up with the demand for mushrooms. The space will also be used for classes on mushroom growing, and Curtis will make the building available to the community for event rentals (a clothing swap is already planned).
“The goal is to show people what an urban mushroom farm can look like and give them a place to gather,” Curtis says.
Born in the D.C. area, Curtis grew up foraging with family and first got interested in mushrooms in 2008 while working on a small local farm. Intrigued by the process of mushroom growing, Curtis began experimenting at home.
“It appeared as if [the mushrooms] just came out of nowhere,” Curtis says. “I did a shiitake log at my house and it would always be the day I wasn’t looking that they would pop up. The unpredictability of it was what made me want to figure it out.”
Curtis founded Good Sense in 2013, and sells up to five varieties of mushrooms throughout the year at local markets, including oyster, shiitake, lion’s mane, black poplar and king trumpet. Mushroom-growing kits are available through Good Sense’s Etsy shop.
Education is a big tenet of the business philosophy, and Curtis particularly enjoys challenging people’s assumptions about mushrooms. At farmers markets, Curtis enjoys introducing shoppers to new varieties of fungi — especially those who may be averse to mushrooms.
“There are people who have only had canned mushrooms and are grossed out and say they make them gag. We want to meet all of these people,” Curtis says.
Curtis understands that not everyone grew up with access to fresh, gourmet mushrooms. Part of Good Sense’s mission is to introduce customers to all that nature has to offer.
“It’s not about how many hikes you’ve been on or national parks you’ve visited. People come to me with different sets of experience with wilderness based on their level of privilege,” Curtis says. “You don’t have to know what a chanterelle is to be a real mushroom lover, because that’s not everyone’s experience. I’m trying to acknowledge that if you’re excited about food, you’re a wilderness lover.”
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