Tuesday, August 25, 2009

B.C. Mushrooms - a business perspective

(continued from Mushroom Industry 2 and Forest Biology)

David Lee Kwen, owner of Misty Mt. Mushrooms, has been in the mushroom business for 20 years. He owns an office/warehouse in Richmond and employs 10-12 people on staff year-round.

Hi David, what can you tell me about wild B.C. mushrooms?

Wild mushrooms cannot be cultivated - they only grow in symbiosis with trees. The tree provides them with nutrients, they provide it with water - they are like water sacs on the roots. People don't like pesticides in the food chain, and mushrooms are a healthy, wholesome organic food. Wild products in general are considered wholesome.

And how does the 'mushroom business' work?

Misty Mt. Mushrooms is the only company in B.C. (and possibly in Canada) that takes all wild mushrooms, berries, etc. We are a top-level wholesaler, providing mushrooms to other wholesalers and to restaurants throughout North America and five other countries [whose identities are a trade secret].

Buyers buy from pickers (mostly transients) who bring the mushrooms to their facility for regrading and distribution. This is similar to the system used for 'domestic' mushrooms (grown in factory farms), except that those are graded by the farmers as they are harvested from the beds, and don't need to be regraded.

At Misty Mountain, the wild mushrooms are regraded by a team of from one to ten people (most pulled from in-house staff), then repacked and sent out. The quality of the incoming product varies widely - for example, boletes may have been nibbled by worms.

What is the difference between the price paid to pickers and the retail price?

The picker price varies depending on several factors, such as type, grade and season. Pickers know the going rates, and they shop around. The price for the final product also covers a range. If there is a bad (poor quality) crop and recoveries are down, the price will rise.

Growing and harvesting seasons vary from place to place around the world. Wholesalers buy from others globally, during the local off-season, to serve their clients and stay in business all year.

Thank you for your time and for providing insight into this unique local industry!

References and further reading:

Certified Organic Associations of BC
Georgia Straight March 6, 2008 Interview
Vancouver Sun November 2, 2002 Interview (includes photo)
Misty Mountain Specialties
BC Mushroom Industry Overview

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