OGDEN, Utah – When you think of a farm, what usually comes to mind are fields and tractors, but Adam Wong runs a different type of farm. His crops do not grow in the ground – they spring from sawdust.
âIt’s like the seed, basically,â Wong said, while holding out a Petri dish. “So that’s what we plant in the sterilized substrate.”
Everything at Wong’s farm, Intermountain Gourmet Mushrooms, grows in humidified boxes. Wong built them himself, using parts intended to build walk-in refrigerators.
“You can judge it’s done by looking for the caps to open somehow,” he said, pointing to what looked like a cube of dirt with mushrooms sticking out of it.
He often refers to the sawdust his mushrooms consume for food as a âsubstrate,â comparing it to the wild mushrooms you can find on a log.
Wong has been working there for seven years, after graduating from business school and pursuing another type of business.
“Uh … hemp clothes, actually,” he laughed.
Wong admitted he was hardly an expert in the field of mushrooms and was limited in the way he could learn.
âThere is no mushroom school,â he said. âSo these are YouTube videos that you can find and there are books on growing mushrooms. The mushroom industry is moving pretty quickly, so something that was printed on how to do something five years ago. years is not the way people do it commercially today.
He has faced more than his share of failures: small crops, failed crops, contaminated crops. But the businessman in him saw a demand, mainly from restaurants that imported their gourmet mushrooms.
âA lot of them are imported Chinese mushrooms,â Wong said. “And there are farms in California or Pennsylvania, they’re kind of the two biggest hubs.”
He started selling his mushrooms at local farmers‘ markets, trying to connect with chefs who bought ingredients, but grocery shopping was his main focus.
âAs soon as I started this, I approached Harmon’s, and they were interested, but I wasn’t able to meet their needs,â Wong said.
The problem was consistency. Wong could turn a seed into a poisonous mushroom, but failure seemed to grow under every log.
“Grow only one organism and not have other competing organisms when the contamination is everywhere,” he said.
He changed the food, modified his sterilization and refined his technique.
It wasn’t that long ago that he finally achieved the stability he was looking for – you can often find him sticking plastic and labels on small boxes of mushrooms, preparing them for his biggest client.
âWe did the grocery shopping, so we’re in all the Harmon stores,â Wong said.
He might not be the biggest mushroom tycoon in the country, but after a few tries and a lot of mistakes, his success spores continue to spread.
âTo have a good harvest, when something failed and understand that and have that success in the future,â he said.