Rep. Congressman Dan Newhouse last Wednesday, April 24, toured Ostrom’s Mushroom Farms’ $38 million, 43-acre construction project, led by President and CEO David Knudsen, and learned about the high-tech facilities being currently installed at 1111 Midvale Road.
“It’s exciting! Looks like a very state-of-the-art, efficient operation for producing mushrooms. And, I think that’s just going to be a real plus and big addition to the economy of Central Washington,” Newhouse explained.
Prior to walking the property, Knudsen provided the congressman with an informative overview about the site and the company’s plans for current operations and expansion.
“The current farm in Olympia grows about 222,000 pounds a week, and it’s all hand-picked. This farm, when complete, will grow approximately 280,000 pounds a week,” Knudsen revealed, while confirming their packing house is expected to be completed in 2020, employing a local work force of 220.
He also discussed how the three-break farm, which is designed with the harvester or picker in mind, comes from Ireland, and the composting piece of the project is from Holland. The Dutch are considered industry leaders in mushroom agriculture.
The new complex will be combined with progressive composting techniques and building systems, designed to manufacture a rich material to host the fruit.
Composting soil and a casing layer will be filled upon a net material integrated within a four-high growing shelf system at the same time. Within two weeks, the fused layers will provide a fertile surface, where it can be then shocked to fruit.
By managing temperature and CO2 levels, the process ignites the mushrooms to grow in breaks. The industry standard is three breaks. After four, disease pressure is more of a threat that coincides with the nature of the fly cycle. Exhausted composting and weed molds also contribute to production of unhealthy fruit.
“We’re really excited to be here! It’s state-of-the-art technology in the mushroom industry, and we’ve got room here to expand into the future, grow the business,” Knudsen expressed. “The community has been very supportive, and we can’t wait to get it up and running.”
He pointed out there’s room on the site to double the 48 growing rooms, which are being built presently, and to quadruple the size of the advanced composting facilities.
“We hope to be filling our first rooms in August and that would be two rooms per week,” Knudsen acknowledged. “We’ll get people trained and hired to start up and get the system working… and then we’ll work our way up and hope to be fully loaded by the end of the year.”
Ostrom’s, a family owned and operated business since 1928 in Olympia, is a wood tray farm that is six high and was once popular in the 70s for about 10 years. The outdated design created operational issues that resulted in a lesser quality environment.
One of the major benefits of relocating to Sunnyside was the opportunity to open up new markets, while utilizing a capable and skilled farming job force.
Newhouse, a multi-generation hops family farmer in the Lower Yakima Valley, confessed there was a time when he thought about growing mushrooms as a result of Ostrom’s proven success.
He tried to figure out how to use his hops fields in combination with the gourmet fungi but decided the option to grow hops was the right choice.
“I think it really complements the other industries that are here,” Newhouse mused. “People like to eat and like to enjoy a good glass of wine or beer, and mushrooms fit right in.”