Flyway Family Farms finding local desire for unique crop - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Flyway Family Farms finding local desire for unique crop

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MAKANDA, Ill. -- For most southern Illinois farmers, harvest season is wrapping up, but not at Flyway Family Farms. Instead of beans and corn, this farm grows mushrooms.

These aren't your normal mushrooms you're used to seeing at the store.

"People really love them," said Michael Hatfield, owner of Flyway Family Farms. "They tend to get hooked on them. Most of them look nothing like your typical button mushrooms you see in the grocery store."  

These mushrooms have names like shiitake and lion's mane.

Unlike other crops, they're not grown in a field, but instead, a lab and a climate controlled barn.

The fruiting room is extremely climate controlled," explained Hatfield. "We keep it between 85 and 95 percent humidity. I try to keep it around 60º if not lower."

What started as a small operation with only two varieties of mushroom, Hatfield now produces 300 pounds of mushrooms a week along with 15 different varieties, with plans to expand even more.

"We just kept at it, and from there, get growing more and more, to the point we're now in the bigger building with plans to build yet another even bigger building," said Hatfield.  

Everything is produced in house, starting in a lab on a petri dish. Eventually transferring to the fruiting room where the mushrooms grow big enough to harvest and sell.

"Everything is done really, really clean. It has to be sterile," explained Hatfield. "I only want the fungus we're trying to grow in there. The first fungi in wins typically. We get what we need. Then from there, it goes into the barn, grows for several weeks, and then into the fruiting room."

The whole process takes about 4 to 6 weeks and it's all organic. 

Hatfield says the tricky part is just getting people to try something they've never had, but after that, they're hooked.

You can find Flyway Family Farm's mushrooms at the Neighborhood Co-Op in Carbondale along with several farmer's markets around the area.

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