29th November 2022
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Americas Cultures Mushroom Farming

LA Now Has An Organic Mushroom Farm

Since 2017, Smallhold has grown into becoming a leading US specialty mushroom farm with products found in retail stores across the country as well as some of the nation’s most exciting restaurant kitchens including Mena, 232 Bleeker, Hungry House, and Maison Yaki in New York City as well as Uchi, Comedor, and Intero in Austin.

Assisted by the latest technology, the company is reshaping the traditional farming model by furthering the access to freshly locally harvested mushrooms.

Starting in Brooklyn, the company now expanded to Los Angeles and announced today the opening of a 34,000 sqft facility in Los Angeles County. The facility, will begin delivering locally grown, USDA certified organic specialty mushrooms to southern california. This West Coast expansion, alongside existing farms in Brooklyn and Austin, furthers the five-year-old company’s mission to build a hyper-local solution to a broken global food supply chain.

Entering the market rapidly

Smallhold is entering the Southern California market by launching in over 90 stores, including Whole Foods, Erewhon, and Lassen’s.

Southern California customers will also be able to order Smallhold mushrooms online via ecommerce players Good Eggs, Imperfect Foods and others. Acclaimed restaurant Kismet, known for celebrating fresh and vegetable-based Mediterranean-inspired dishes, is officially Smallhold’s first culinary partner in Los Angeles.

“We’re excited in our partnership with Smallhold whose value for quality and mission are in line with our stores,” said Edward Palomo, Produce Director at Erewhon. “Smallhold has taken mushroom growing operations to a whole new level in being able to provide us and our customers with the highest quality and unique mushroom varieties available.”

With the opening of this newest farm in Vernon, California–less than a mile outside of Downtown Los Angeles–Smallhold now operates four commercial farms across the US for a total footprint of over 75,000 sq. ft. Their goal is to not only to feed over 2 million people in 2022, but to use mushrooms to change the way people think about their environment, sustainability and biodiversity.

When COVID first took hold of the country in 2020, Smallhold was on the shelf in a single grocery store in Brooklyn, NY. Now, Smallhold can be found in approximately 400 retailers and restaurants, including Whole Foods, Safeway-Albertsons, Central Market, and top restaurants including Mena, 232 Bleeker, Hungry House, and Maison Yaki in New York City as well as Uchi, Comedor, and Intero in Austin. This growth has been driven by consumer demand for lower impact, cleaner, better for you produce that will help our society deal with the impacts of traditional agriculture and climate change.

“This is a huge step for Smallhold, a business we founded 5 years ago inside a shipping container under the Williamsburg Bridge,” said Andrew Carter, CEO and Co-founder. “Having grown up in Los Angeles myself, it’s exciting to bring our mushrooms to my environmentally-conscious, culinary-focused hometown.”

Increasing access, quality and variety of speciality mushrooms

National and regional retail partnerships continue to grow with partners including Erewhon, Lassens, Good Eggs and Imperfect Foods, along with an expansion of their existing partnership with Whole Foods Market in their 60 store South-Pacific region. Smallhold brings increased choice to consumers by growing harder to find mushroom varieties including organic Lion’s Mane, Blue Oyster, Yellow Oyster, King Oyster, and more. The average US mushroom case is dominated by button, crimini and portobellos, ignoring an entire kingdom (literally, fungi is a kingdom!) of texture, flavor, and nutrition.

By building hyper-urban farms in key regions and exclusively using compostable cardboard packaging, Smallhold reduces food miles traveled, improves mushroom quality, extends shelf life, all while drastically reducing carbon footprint, food waste, and plastic usage. This scalable approach to local, organic farming allows a wide array of specialty mushrooms to be grown, harvested and sold in meaningful quantities directly where consumers live. In comparison, 68% of mushrooms consumed in the US are grown and shipped from Pennsylvania. For Shiitake mushrooms, almost all are grown off logs originating outside of the US.

As a national brand with a local presence, Smallhold is carving out a new category opportunity for mushroom farming. With this latest opening, Smallhold is finally connecting the coasts with a truly national supply chain for specialty mushrooms that preserves shelf life.

“Educating and sparking curiosity about mushrooms is an integral part of our mission,” said Andrew Carter, CEO and Co-founder. “We want people to ask where their food comes from, think about their diet, and reconnect with the planet. This means installing our Minifarms in unexpected places like The Standard Hotel, or having Smallhold mushrooms on the menu at places like Eleven Madison Park—all while concurrently placing locally grown packaged mushrooms in grocery stores across the nation. We want people to have multiple touchpoints and opportunities to taste delicious, quality mushrooms.”

Commitment to Sustainable Growing and Local Agriculture with Applied Technology

Smallhold’s indoor farms use proprietary systems to create optimal conditions for mushroom growth while ensuring maximum efficiency of water and energy usage. Their patented system captures hundreds of thousands of data points per day, giving them the ability to imitate natural environments. This results in higher yields, lower resource use, and allows them to have a certified organic, hyperclean, efficient operation. Smallhold mushrooms also grow off byproducts from the lumber industry (mostly sawdust) and then 100% of spent substrate is composted or donated.

To date, Smallhold has composted over 2 million pounds of spent substrate. Their goal is to compost 8 million pounds by the end of the year. Additionally, the Smallhold Community Compost Program provides spent substrate for free to the public through partnerships with community growers, hobby mycologists, compost enterprises, farmers, ranchers, and others looking to celebrate fungi and build soil fertility through the power of mycelium.

In Los Angeles, Smallhold is part of a groundbreaking mycoremediation field study testing locally-adapted and sustainable solutions for brownfield (AKA contaminated site) cleanup in LA County. Led by PhD candidate Danielle Stevenson at the University of California and in partnership with the City of Los Angeles, the study has been using Smallhold’s spent substrate blocks since December 2021, monitoring effects at contaminated sites including a former rail yard, auto shop, metal shop, and others. The results of their work could reclaim contaminated land for future sustainable use and prove to have far reaching ramifications in the field of mycoremediation.

“We hope the findings from these studies will demonstrate the many benefits of integrating fungi into soil remediation and address knowledge gaps so that these sustainable approaches can be applied widely and create circular economies around contaminated site cleanup,” said Danielle Stevenson, PhD candidate in Environmental Toxicology at the University of California, Riverside.

In Los Angeles County, Smallhold continues its practice of hiring locally, always paying above the living wage and partnering with regional non-profits and groups.

“The city of Vernon is very excited to help Smallhold expand its production of specialty mushrooms to the West Coast,” said Carlos Fandino, Vernon City Manager. “We are happy to create an environment where businesses like Smallhold can thrive from being surrounded by a network of farming distributors and retail partners, many of whom are based here in Vernon.”

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