Fungi Fascination with Hazel Dell Mushrooms
If you ask Jared Scherger what inspired him to go into the unique field of mushroom farming, his answer is surprisingly simple: he thought mushrooms were fascinating.
His journey began when he heard a radio program on NPR about mushrooms. It piqued his interest, and compelled him to start researching more about fungi. As his studies continued, he picked up the phone to call Jim Hammond, the founder of Hazel Dell Mushrooms, and ask for a job. He would work under Jim’s leadership for more than a decade.
Jim started growing oyster and shiitake mushrooms out of his home garage in California in 1980. The at-home project would quickly grow into three operations near Watsonville, CA, and Hazel Dell Mushrooms was brought to Colorado in the 90s when his family relocated to the Fort Collins area.
Jared started at Hazel Dell as a mushroom farmer and worked his way up to Farm Manager. He spent thirteen years at Hazel Dell, absorbing as much information as he could, getting hands-on experience, and most importantly, paying attention to the fungi and how they grow. “I’ve learned so much,” shared Jared. “A lot of people never talk about the fungus kingdom. We see things as either plants or animals, without room for what’s in between.”
Hazel Dell Mushrooms benefitted from Jim’s leadership and expertise for nearly four decades before he passed away from cancer in May of 2020. After losing his mentor and friend, Jared and his wife, Luci, decided to honor Jim’s legacy by taking over the farm themselves. Becoming new business owners in the middle of the pandemic is no small feat. Jared and Luci quickly took the reins, with Jared leading farm operations and management while Luci handles the administrative side of their business (her email signature sums it up as Accounts Receivable, etc, etc).
Every mushroom at Hazel Dell’s starts out as tissue culture in a petri dish. What does that mean? Instead of growing from spores – which can lead to inconsistent results – Hazel Dell’s mushrooms are cloned to produce consistent results. The journey from the petri dish to the market is a delicate one that relies on attention to detail, the perfect conditions, and a dash of nature’s magic. Their most popular mushrooms, shiitakes, take as long as three months to incubate.
While they’ve come a long way in just three years, Hazel Dell isn’t slowing down any time soon. They hope to expand their space to make room for more ‘shrooms, while finding ways to upgrade their facilities. “We don’t have the most sophisticated heating and cooling system,” Jared noted as he pointed to a space heater in one of Hazel Dell’s harvesting rooms. At the end of the day, all that Jared hopes to do through Hazel Dell Mushrooms is share his love of mushrooms with his community.
“Many people don’t understand how dependent life on this planet is on fungi,” Jared said. “Life on Earth wouldn’t have existed without fungus and what it has done. It goes to show how interconnected all life truly is,” he added.
Hazel Dell Mushrooms can be found at the Boulder and Longmont Farmers Markets, as well as our online store.