*Local Learning Series written by Stephanie Manara of The Mushroom Barn in Nevada City & Grass Valley, CA

The Magic of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are an amazing thing.  We often think of plant kingdoms, animal kingdoms (which we are a part of), but we leave out the Fungal kingdom (a.k.a. Queendom). 

In the Sierra Foothills, one of our biggest challenges to a sustainable future is the fact that a lot of our food comes from really far away, large farms. Especially in the winter when we cannot grow as much. If these supply chains become disrupted, like we noticed during Covid, we could be up the creek without a paddle in the winter, when we are not producing enough food locally to feed our community. 

Mushrooms – are the missing link in having a sustainable nutrition-dense food system in the Sierra Foothills.

Mushrooms play a huge role in our local resiliency to changes that impact our food system. Here are some reasons why. 

Let’s begin with how we grow. Have you heard of vertical farming? This is essentially a technique that aims to reduce the footprint of a given agricultural practice. We grow mushrooms in vertical containers that allow us to maximize a very small amount of space for a very large amount of organic food.

mushroom growing grass valley

Growing mushrooms on a small scale like this also means we are ‘Decentralized’ from the mainstream of mono-cropped food. 

The most fascinating part about incorporating small mushroom farms into our local food system is how regenerative mushrooms can turn the system as a whole, since they can be grown on our agricultural waste such as horse manure and cereal grain husks.

Mushroom mycelia are the “original regenerators” as I like to call them.

mushroom foraging nevada county

And the  “byproduct” of organic mushroom farming is actually living nutrient-rich mushroom compost great for garden and livestock fertility. In addition to vertically farming, we can use the power of the four seasons here in the foothills, by switching our mushroom cultivars each season to work with nature. Most of our cultivars are actually native to this area, including the legendary Lions Mane mushroom, the honorable Reishi mushroom, and the generous Oyster Mushroom varieties. 

mycology nevada city grass valley, california

Food as medicine: Consuming locally grown, mouth-watering mushrooms is a meaningful way to steward the planet, and the nutritional and medicinal value you get in return is unsurpassed. The mushrooms we’re growing have a lengthy list of health benefits too vast to consolidate in one paragraph, but all of them are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, beta-glucans, and anti-inflammatory life-enhancing compounds. All mushrooms are high in Vitamin-D, essentially Superhuman food, to be precise. 

plugging mushroom logs nevada county grass valley ca

Because we are operating local and care so much about the resiliency of our community, we want to empower you to grow your own mushrooms too. We produce “farm on table” grow kits to get you started! We are like the fruit farms that additionally sells fruit trees, as we believe the more mushroom mycelium we can grow as a community, the more resilient we become. Like native plant nurseries, we are preserving a spore bank of local strains of fungi for future generations. 

This is why we believe mushroom growing is the missing link in our community and we want to invite you to join us. 

The contributor to this article is Stephanie Manara, Director of Mycology at The Mushroom Barn. Mush Barn is a local female-run farm sporting small-scale regenerative business in Ag, while stewarding the health of the planet. Stephanie is an applied Mycologist from the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

She began dedicating her life’s work to the fungal queendom nine years ago, on the search to discovering soil sciences and the mysteries of where humans interface with the biosphere. Her Undergraduate focused on applying regenerative mycology principles to modern day industrial drawbacks, followed up with research in China and  Colombia, as well as working in the largest medicinal mushroom laboratory in the world.

She recently established The Mushroom Barn LLC in Grass Valley, where her team is growing 1,300 lb of ecologically-beneficial mushroom mycelium each week, with plans to expand this Spring. Beyond education and fresh mushrooms, their Mission is to provide the community with ‘bucketloads’ of mushroom mycelium that can be “fruited” right off the sides of the buckets, or simply spread in the garden, for perennial mushroom patches season after season!  If you grow more mushroom abundance than you can eat, The MushBarn will buy the fresh mushrooms back from you, to marinate for their ridiculously delicious line of Mushroom Jerky. They believe their farms products can have a courageously beneficial impact on the local ecology, meanwhile leaving a microscopic footprint in the making. 

We love our people & plant neighbors, and want to encourage greater wellness with mushroom consumption and cultivation. Our Fresh Mushroom CSA program is a super simple way to get your hands on our fresh mush-varieties each week (or monthly pick). If you’re interested in bulk quantities of mushroom magic, reach out to us at hello.mycelia@gmail.com.                                                

lions mane in nevada countyYear-round we’re cultivating fresh Lions Mane, Blue Oysters, King Trumpets, Pearl Oysters, Black Pearl Oysters, Garden Giants, and Chestnut mushrooms each week at the barn, in the heart of Grass Valley. We have Reishi and Cordyceps mushrooms on the way to fruiting, and maybe even some morel mycelium available for the community this Spring too. We’ve also developed an expanding product line of shelf-stable mushroom treats that we’re excited to share.

As far as growing your own mushrooms, we’ve got you covered. Our grow kits are high-performing protein-machines that will fruit mushrooms right out of the bag.. on your countertop! Something truly unforgettable to experience for the first time. We have a half dozen or so varieties to choose from, and will also have *re-usable* bucket grow kit containers available this Spring, where you bring back the bucket and we *re-fill* it with mushroom mycelium for you! This type of conscious exchange is novel and has us jumping with joy for how ecologically sound and sustainable it is. 

Each week we produce bundles of fresh mushrooms on our farm, and we’re inviting you behind the scenes to get your hands dirty with us! Internship Applications, Pre-orders, Wholesale inquiries, and any questions you may have can be answered at hello.mycelia@gmail.com

Find us on our website www.mushbarn.com or instagram @mushbarn. 

We’re The Mushroom Barn you’ve been looking for :) 

Sign-up for our CSA today at MushBarn.com  

May the spores be with you, as we rebuild a brighter future with food sovereignty, healthier immune systems, and a collective willingness to take better care of our communities, and our earthly home.

Stephanie Manara

Mycelia Movement 
mushroom barn liquid gold juicery nevada city, ca