A loan of $5,000 helped enclose and weatherize an existing pole barn for use in mushroom production.

Michael's story

My name is Mike. Together with my wife Jennifer I operate Double E Forest Farm near Willseyville, NY. We grow shiitake mushrooms on hardwood logs as our main crop. Our farm is located just south of the Finger Lakes on the north slope of a steep wooded hillside. Not great land for growing vegetables—but perfect for growing mushrooms and native plants that thrive in the forest understory. I didn’t start out as a mushroom farmer. Both Jennifer and I are transplants to New York—Jennifer from Oklahoma and myself from Florida, though Jennifer’s family has lived on this property since 1981. Soon after we got married in 1999 I lost my job in the publishing industry and we knew it was time for a new plan.

Fortunately, Jennifer had established herself as a successful entrepreneur with a loyal list of gardening clients. Since I had experience working as a landscaper in Florida, I decided to join Jennifer and together build up the gardening business. We got a New York State nursery license and began growing native plants to sell to our clients. In 2003 land next to us came up for auction at a county tax foreclosure sale. It turned out the land was the remainder of the historical 19th century wooded farmstead that originally contained the farmhouse we live in. We attended the tax auction, bid and, to our amazement, won. From the start we wanted to the land to remain in forest and we quickly realized we needed a plan to use it to generate at least enough income to cover the tax burden. So we began looking for a sustainable plan that would generate income from the new land and improve the health and natural diversity of the woods, which had recently been logged and needed help. We focused on the practices of agroforestry, or growing edible crops in the woodland understory. We began planting native plants like serviceberry, hazelnut and paw paw in the openings among the trees. We also started experimenting with shiitake mushroom cultivation. That was ten years ago. Today we grow hundreds of pounds of mushrooms per year and have a growing list of customers, including many who buy directly through a local CSA. We’ve worked in some other types of mushrooms as well as a seasonally limited harvest of ramps and fiddle head ferns. While it’s not a path to riches, growing and selling mushrooms in the woods has led us to a greater understanding and appreciation of the amazing life of forests and the crucial role that sustainable farming and small scale food production can play in our planet’s future.

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About Double E Farms

Industry: Agriculture
Years in operation: More than 5 years
Website: doubleeforestfarm.com


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Loan details