Young Coloradan finds opportunity in mushroom farming
Everardo De la Cruz didn’t think he liked mushrooms until he started farming them. Now he spends his days tending to his Kersey, Colo., mushroom farm and evenings are often spent experimenting with recipes so he can tell his customers how to best cook them.
De la Cruz took over Julie Hanscome’s mushroom farm in October and renamed the farm at 26281 Weld County Rd. 42, Kersey, DLC Mushrooms. Hanscome had run it as Eagle Tree Mushrooms.
After taking over, De la Cruz asked his parents why he never really ate mushrooms growing up.
His mom said it was because mushrooms are expensive, a perception De la Cruz tries not to perpetuate when he sells his own white button, brown button and portabello mushrooms at markets.
His dad has always thought of mushrooms as a bit of a delicacy. He told De la Cruz about teenage years spent in Mexico, when his mom — De la Cruz’s grandma — would send him out with his siblings to scour the woods for wild mushrooms after big rain storms.
Moisture and humidity, along with a drop in temperature, often brought on by rain, make mushrooms grow, De la Cruz explained.
It’s a science, really, and De la Cruz recreates the natural process in what he refers to as “boxes,” but which are actually large semi truck beds made into mushroom environments.
He has four boxes, three of which are usable for farming. Each of the three has its own heating and cooling system, humidifiers and large beds of soil that are specifically treated for mushrooms.
All of the boxes are in the back of a big warehouse on Julie Hanscome’s dairy farm.
From the outside, DLC Mushrooms looks like some warehouses on a farm in the middle of nowhere. But inside is an entire operation.
The process of growing mushrooms is very precise, and De la Cruz has spent the past year collaborating with Hanscome, a family friend, and growers from Pennsylvania to make the best product he can.
De la Cruz officially took over the mushroom operation for Hanscome in October, just a few short weeks after getting married.
He took over at the end of the mushroom season so he could ease into things during the slow season, but plans changed when he found out his wife was pregnant with twins.
De la Cruz is spending the months of his wife’s pregnancy soaking in all the knowledge he can so he is ready when the busy season hits again in April. After all, once the twins arrive in May, his time will likely be a little more limited.
De la Cruz wants the mushroom farm to become a family business. He is already teaching his 17-year-old sister how to pick the mushrooms and his dad is available to help from time to time.
His wife and mom help sell at the local farmers markets. His wife even keeps a Facebook page for customer-submitted recipes.
De la Cruz grew up down the street from the dairy farm. His father worked for Hanscome milking cows after they moved to Kersey from Mexico when De la Cruz was in fourth grade.
After Hanscome’s husband passed away, De la Cruz said he and his brother started working on the weekends to help her out, and to earn some extra cash for the things teenagers want.
She’s basically family, he said.
When Hanscome decided to try something new and grow mushrooms, De la Cruz was there to help her out. And when she decided to retire last year, he was there to pick up where she left off.
“I’m like well, I already know how to do everything (on the growing side),” De la Cruz said, and before leaving in October, Hanscome showed him how to deal with the business end of things.
Right now De la Cruz is leasing from Hanscome, but he intends to buy all of the equipment eventually to drive his overhead costs down as low as possible.
He also intends to use this as a way to keep his family healthy and natural. He said he trades mushrooms at the markets for other produce.
He sells at farmers markets in northern Colorado and also to local restaurants, including The Tavern at St. Michael’s Square in Greeley, Kersey Pizza, Kersey Cafe and Greeley’s Cafe Panache.
Chad Young, owner of The Tavern, said he has found the transition between owners to be really easy on his end.
“I think he’s still learning the ropes of the business side of it but it’s been great since he took over,” Young said.
Young said he liked to focus on fresh, local products, and DLC falls right into that category.
“That’s what we’re all about here — supporting local business. I can call him or text him an order that morning and he can have it out to me by the afternoon,” Young said. “When I order from him, he’s pulling (the mushrooms) from the ground and then delivering.”
De la Cruz still thinks it’s important to know his product.
Just last week, when a bout of warm weather hit northern Colorado, De la Cruz could be seen outside grilling a portabella, preparing for the questions he knows are coming with the busy season. ❖
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