It seems we’ve been busy the past 12 months as we haven’t put anything on the website since we won a delicious. Produce Award in 2017. And the crazy news is that we’ve won another one! This time it’s for our fabulous King Oyster Mushrooms. Like last year, we are incredibly honoured to have even been nominated (thanks again David Swain at Fino Seppeltsfield), let alone judged as prizewinning by David, Paul Baker (Botanic Gardens Restaurant), Duncan Welgemoed (Africola) and Mark McNamara (St Hugos). We’d also like to congratulate everyone else who was nominated – small producers like us are so fortunate to have a culture of food celebrated as it is in South Australia.
The heartbreaking thing about winning this award for a second time is that we are in the thick of a catastrophic contamination issue in our grow space and we are utterly failing to grow any more prize-winning mushrooms. Since we got back from holidays in late February, we’ve inoculated more than 200 bags of straw which should have yielded about 300kg of yummy oyster mushrooms. We’ve harvested about 15kg. Why?
Unfortunately, we’re not exactly sure. The latest theory is that our pasteurisation process has been failing – a product of us trying to scale up our production to supply all these fantastic restaurants who want our mushies without adapting our infrastructure to accommodate higher volumes of substrate. This is the latest idea from a string of modifications to how we do things which have failed to produce anything except mouldy straw this year.
This is heartbreaking for a number of reasons. Firstly, we have wasted time and energy and resources growing a lot of mould. Secondly, we put pressure on our relationships with our customers by not being able to supply them with what they want. Thirdly, we have no money because half of our business is not producing a yield. And finally, it looks very probable that we wont have any King Oyster Mushrooms to send to Sydney for the national judging of the delicious. Produce Awards….. This makes me very sad.
Where this leaves us is at Little-Bunyip-Crunch-Time. Because our cash flow has been so impacted by our failure to grow a reasonable volume of mushrooms for the past six months, we have to be able to work out how to grow mushrooms like we were this time last year, with the infrastructure we already have. If we can’t we have to seriously reconsider whether we can keep doing what we’re doing and either me or Chris will need to go and get a job.
If we can, the next step is to RELIABLY produce mushrooms of award winning quality for about six months. If we can pull that off, then it’s time to seriously upscale.
In the meantime, we’ll wait with baited breath to see if our pasteurisation mods are working and enjoy the fact that winning the delicious. Produce Awards for the second year running is, in itself, a massive achievement.