CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 14 Sci-Fi & Fantasy - Page 148

The Sparta Mushrooms website pro- claims, “Biology Meets Hope & Hard Work in a Small Town.” Not exactly what I’d ex- pect from a mushroom farm. But it piqued my interest about the whole operation, so I decided to look a bit further into Sparta. Turns out that Robert and Suzy Currey moved from Atlanta to Sparta in Hancock County, the poorest county in the State of Georgia, they decided they wanted to do something to contribute to their new community. As entrepreneurs and avid gardeners, they took a route that was fa- miliar, founding Elm Street Gardens. They hired and trained locals to run the farm. Eventually, this led to their founding Spar- ta Mushrooms http://spartamushrooms. com/, in 2012, under the same principals and across the street, in an old warehouse that over the years has seen itself as a home to cotton and more recently, furni- ture. They transformed the beautiful old brick warehouse into a growing space for mush- rooms. They use temperature controlled fruiting houses for cultivation that are easily moved without compromising the integrity of the building. During the few years they’ve been around, Sparta has cultivated relationships with local restaurants and local and larger mar- kets (they’re in several GA Whole Foods!), CSAs, and even sell directly to the pub- lic at several farmer’s markets (CRAFT’s publisher is a customer!) all in the Athens and Atlanta areas. Their certified organic mushrooms can also be found in kits from the local meal kit company, Peach Dish. Where they are used in dishes such as Mushroom Ragout with Fresh Herbs Over Creamy Polenta and the Beef Noodle Bowl with Dried Shiitake and Green Onion. Sounds good, no? So, what kind of mushrooms do they cul- tivate at Sparta? Well, they had to choose mushrooms that played well together at- mospherically and the three that came out on top are the Lion’s Mane, Oyster, and Shiitake mushrooms. Rishi mushrooms make the occasional appearance as well. But, at Sparta, their focus is mainly on cu- linary mushrooms, and the rishi is a variety ordinarily used for medicinal purposes. Each one likes the same range of tempera- ture and humidity, if not cultivation time. Speaking of cultivation, mushroom culti- vation is unlike any type of farming I’ve ever encountered before. Beyond being particularly skilled at cooking mushroom risotto and vague recollections of learning about slime mold somewhere in my prima- ry school education, I was pretty mystified at how these delicious Smurf umbrellas come to be. So, I had a chat with Kevin