Transparency in Mushrooms
A long, long ride down 27A; a quick left on Butter Lane—we had no idea we’d be having “the conversation.”
David Falkowski and his wife, Ashley, are living the conversation every day. Justine and I came for the maitake mushrooms and some nice photos. We left with a car full of plants, juice, mushrooms, mushroom tea, mushroom burgers, pastries, dried peppers, and so much information and inspiration.
“We are not having this conversation” David emphatically tells us. We, as in the world. He passionately illustrated for us the difference between organic farms and their practices—the problems that lie therein. He wishes for checks and balances in organic farming. He wants peer review. We couldn’t agree more. That is “the conversation.”
Justine and I both had no idea Open Minded Organics had been in operation for 15 years. He tells us casually that they don’t do anything but farm and spend time with their daughter. They eat, sleep, and breathe this life. We were just two people looking for mushrooms, yet he treated us to the knowledge shared with his most respected fellow farmers. He spoke to us like we knew something or as if we were worthy of knowing it. “You know how the NOFA (National Organic Farmers Association) conference is…all the good seminars are at the same time…” No, we had no idea. But we couldn’t wait to hear more. Turns out the “organic pledge” is little more than a poetic platitude to be signed, as it is based on the honor system. Know thy farmer. Transparency. Logs. Not just mushroom logs. Records. It all made sense.
As David guided us around the farm, he took a phone call from his field inspector and chatted for a good while.
Everyone knows someone touched by cancer. There are true believers who attribute much of their longevity to their regular intake of maitake mushrooms. David wasn’t here to confirm or deny their medical benefits. But with a wink and a sample of his chaga tea, we know what team he’s playing for. There would be no reason to do this otherwise. No need to toil with the uncertainty of fussy fungi.
He treated us to an unsolicited tour of the farm upon our morning arrival. When he opened his vault to reveal the secret life of mycelium, we both gasped. It was magnificent. There were mushrooms sprouting from bags filled with straw and poked with holes. We saw button, oyster, and lion’s mane mushrooms. Finally, we came upon the beloved maitakes, also known as hen of the woods. Two weeks, he said, until they would be ready…we knew we would be back. Their passion overflowed into every aspect of the farm. Everything there was well thought out and attended to.
The baked goods were lovely — with artistic little shaped cutouts on top identifying the filling inside or if it was gluten free. David told us how his mother was diagnosed with celiac so he was conscious of those things. He showed us impressive fields of lush crops — organic practices put into place; pointed out plants for sale — they all had a story. I bought many for that very reason. Every time I use a tiny pepper, I will think of how he proposed to his wife in Thailand and brought back seeds of the chile to plant. They are beautiful and vibrant and red. He says they make for a fiery love life. We believe. We enjoyed their ground-up powder on the chickpeas she was roasting. His wife, his partner in life as he called her, was prepping. At one point, she ran to make deliveries while he was still engrossed in telling us about their farm. She didn’t even flinch. Their camaraderie and shared love of the farm are obvious. Ashley could see the importance of his conversing with two strangers in search of maitakes. It was not even a question.
They sold us frozen mushroom burgers to cook at another time. We lamented aloud that we couldn’t eat the tempting burgers at the moment, vowing to travel with a grill in our truck from now on, as we were still quite hungry and found it nearly impossible to wait to get them home to sample. And with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “You never know. Maybe one day…” We knew. Leaving late in the afternoon after sampling so many delicious creations yet hungry for more, we knew there was a bounty beyond maitakes to bring us back…savory conversation and maybe one day some hot food, too. Can’t think of anything better.