Friday, February 28, 2014

A New Year: Three New Employees
by Laura

Here at Field & Forest Products each new year brings forth great ideas. Last year we had many including revamping our packing room, designing Field & Forest stickers to include in orders, purchasing a new more energy efficient walk-in cooler, and reconfiguring the employees and their office spaces. The later, seems to have left me all alone (except during the lunch hour when the production workers want to peruse the internet.), but this gives me a great opportunity to contemplate and create epic blogs for all to enjoy. See, we have two main office spaces here, Corporate and the Annex. When walking through the front door of Field & Forest you are immediately entering the Annex. There you will find my smiling face. I do share this space with Jasen so I am not truly alone, but he spends just about all of his time making spawn just to the North of me. If I look to the West I can see into Corporate, which houses all of the other VIPS of F&FP. To the East is the packing room. So why the sudden change up of whom gets what office space? The answer is employees.
We have a total of three new staffers this year. We were in serious need of help in the packing room as well as the lab. It seems that growing mushrooms is becoming more and more popular, which benefits us, as well as you, and perhaps the rest of the world. As sales increase so do the number of orders we send out each year, and the amount of spawn that must be produced and maintained. Our kind of business requires a great deal of collaboration, teamwork, and good food! With all of that said F&FP is proud to introduce Chance, Derek, and Jon.


I am 17 and live in Marinette, Wisconsin. Currently, I am a junior enrolled in Marinette High School, but go through a schooling program called GPS Education Partners, which offers students the ability to take more of a hands-on approach to education by partnering with area businesses to provide work experience. Prior to working with Field & Forest, I didn't know anything about mushrooms or the business.  Since October, when I first became employed, I've learned how to inoculate logs, grow mushrooms, and now know when mushrooms are ready to harvest and how to pick and grade them for shipping. I've also learned about packing and shipping orders. Overall, working here has taught me how to be a good employee.

Outside of school and work I like playing video games, playing rugby and welding. I'm still undecided about what my goals are for after graduation in the spring of 2015.


I would best describe myself as an outdoor enthusiast who is an extremely devoted Packer fan. Currently living in Titletown, USA and proud to be a new member of the Field & Forest Products team; I started working for the company in January of 2014 after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.
During the week you can find me processing orders and packaging them in a secure and orderly fashion. I also help out with a variety of activities that go along with mushroom production. On the weekends you can find me exploring the Bay and small inland lakes for fish and waterfowl or in the northern woods of Wisconsin hunting deer.


I have had an interest in mushrooms for about as long as I can remember. Even now one of my favorite activities is hunting for edible mushrooms in the spring and fall. Although I grew up in Vermont my interest in fungi keeps bringing me back to Wisconsin; first as a graduate student in mycology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and now as a production and research mycologist for FFP. I am excited to be working at F&FP in a capacity that will allow me to follow my passion for edible mushrooms and their use in agricultural systems.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The New Small Farm: Cultivating Encouragement for the Future 
by Mary Ellen

Polyculture work with Almond portobello and tomatoes‏.

Earlier this month we attended the 15th Annual Michigan Small Farm Conference at the top of the mitten in Traverse City. The day-long event registered a record number of attendees, a thousand or more. It was impossible to miss the prevalence of young farmers in the mix.  You can’t imagine how exciting it is for us “old timers” to see the small farm interest busting out with young, articulate, motivated people who are not only interested in land stewardship, but who are operating CSA’s and Market Gardens; already sharp farm managers. Lucky for cooks, mushrooms are part of the crop mix!

Mushroom grower at Ozark Forest efficiently picking Shiitake with the double handed harvesting method‏.

The Keynote speaker, John Ikerd, Professor emeritus of Agricultural Economics at University of Missouri and a long time observer of farm sustainability, contributed some interesting observations and a convincing pitch for the viability of the small farm. He says, “Small farms of the future will be different from those of the past. They will utilize new knowledge, technologies, and market opportunities to become even better farms than before.”

Encouragingly, the emerging attitude amongst many of these young farmers is that it’s best to be driven by ethics, not economics.  John Ikerd elaborated on this idea. “A real farm is not just an economic enterprise; it is also a way of life and a sacred trust. It’s not just about production and profits; it’s about meeting the real needs of real people, all people, both today and in the future. Real farmers care about their families, they care about the land, they care about their neighbors, they care about their customers, they care about society, and the future of humanity. A new renaissance and reversal of trends is emerging in the search for real food from real farms, and the real farms of the future will be appropriately small.”

The argument is not necessarily about the validity of “large farm” vs. “small farm.” The industrialization of agriculture over the last 50 years has played a large hand in cheaply feeding our growing world and providing us with food choices our grandparents could never have imagined. Though extremely difficult to evaluate, the real cost of degradation to our natural systems and subsequent biological and social effects on human society is increasingly influencing  peoples’ food choices and subsequent growing support of the new small farm.

The way we see it, growing mushrooms is a way of adding value to a farming system that embraces the entire ecological cycle of harvest and decay.  At Field and Forest Products, we are indeed “proud to be part of this rotting world,” and we are also very proud to be part of this exciting shift in agriculture and the people who are driving it.

For the transcript of John Ikerd’s keynote, go to: