I’m joined by Andrew Carter, one of the co-founders of Smallhold, a beloved mushroom farm that is feeding people across America. Andrew’s agriculture journey started in vertical farming and eventually transitioned into growing mushrooms and a mission to feed the world with fungi. We discuss Smallhold’s evolution from a modest start up in a basement to locations around the country, the mushroom grow cycle, why mushroom farming is so important, and what he loves most about the growing mushroom community.
I appreciate Andrew for his extensive knowledge on mushrooms, despite not considering himself a mycologist. Andrew shares valuable insights about various types of mushrooms and how they can teach us a lot on both personal and environmental levels. With the help of technology, mushrooms can now thrive in new spaces.
Andrew's mission with Smallhold involves encouraging people to consume more locally-sourced mushrooms and to explore and experiment with them. It is perfectly fine to cultivate mushrooms for food without having a complete understanding of them. The fact that there is still much to discover about mushrooms is what makes them so fascinating.
- The mushroom revolution
- How Andrew got started with Smallhold and the company’s mission
- Why Andrew and his co-founder Adam started growing mushrooms out of a shipping container
- The role of technology in mushroom farming
- The collective obsession with mushrooms and their many benefits
- Why mushrooms vary in color and size batch by batch and how this can be challenging to keep consistent
- Interesting experiences with mushrooms and misconceptions about fungi
- Why people should eat more mushrooms
- Follow me on Instagram: @tonyapapanikolove
- Follow Rainbo on Instagram: @rainbomushrooms
- Shop Rainbo: rainbo.com
Tonya Papanikolov 00:04
Hi, welcome to The Rainbo Podcast. I'm your host, Tonya Papanikov. Rainbo and I are on a mission to upgrade humanity with fungi and expand the collective conscious. This podcast builds a virtual mycelial network of bold, open minded thinkers and seekers. I chat with experts, thought leaders, healers, scientists, entrepreneurs, spiritual teachers, activists, and dreamers.
Tonya Papanikolov 00:32
These are stories of healing, human potential and expansion. Tune in root in expand and journey with us. Hi, everybody, I hope you're having an awesome week and are doing well. I have Andrew Carter on the podcast with me today. Andrew is one of the cofounders of small hold a beloved mushroom farm. Him and his co founder Adam are awesome dudes, I really enjoy hanging out with them. I have met Andrew a couple times and I just met Adam. I don't have Adam on the podcast. It's me today. But he's also an incredible dude, who is really passionate about mushrooms. And Andrew has been in the agriculture space for quite some time.
Tonya Papanikolov 01:22
He started in vertical farming and growing lettuces and eventually realized that lettuce can't feed the world and decided to start growing mushrooms. And that has started as a modest operation in a basement and eventually grew into a shipping container in Brooklyn, and then to a warehouse with a series of mini farm installations through Manhattan. And now they've kind of really grown and blown up a bit. They have locations in Austin in Los Angeles, New York, and more coming. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Andrew and Adam and the team drove their ban around New York City selling mushrooms to people that were stuck in quarantine. And they were basically helping people grow mushrooms while they were stuck at home.
Tonya Papanikolov 02:13
And this coincided with the world's becoming fairly obsessed with mushrooms as we know and small just started to really take off and now they're selling to grocery store chains to amazing restaurants. And to people all over the United States. I believe they just got into sprouts and Whole Foods and they've just they've really been able to scale their operation. And they're doing some really cool things with the technology behind their farms. I got to tour the Austin facility a few months ago, I guess that was earlier this year, and had just such a great chat with both of them. They're both such incredible guys who are just you know, super passionate about mushrooms and growing organic mushrooms, which is really important. And so Andrew and I chat today about a whole range of things the mushroom grow cycle, why organic mushroom farming is so important.
Tonya Papanikolov 03:07
You know, we talk about some of the more philosophical things like what he's learned from mushrooms and what he loves about the microbial community the most, and things like this. So let's dive into the episode. It's really a cool one. And this is for all you Miko files. Hey, Andrew.
Andrew Carter 03:24
Hey, how's it going?
Tonya Papanikolov 03:26
It's going good. Good. Good morning. I'm stoked to be chatting with you. Thanks for coming on.
Andrew Carter 03:31
Yeah, of course.
Tonya Papanikolov 03:32
Last time we saw each other was the farm tour, which was already aspect. Yeah. I've been thinking about those while the new bill, how's that going? Is it like, almost done?
Andrew Carter 03:43
Pretty much done? Yeah, we're testing those chambers now. And so that's just we grow mushrooms in it. But we just test just to make sure that the mushrooms are growing well, and then that'll be in production, I think over the next couple weeks.
Tonya Papanikolov 03:56
Cool. Yeah, so exciting. Before we jump into everything, I start every episode by asking the guests what they're grateful for today. So what are you grateful for today?
Andrew Carter 04:08
I am grateful for my family. I have a one and a half year old son named Oscar and a partner named Deirdre and they're extremely supportive and funny and fun. Work can get kind of stressful and so it's nice having a supportive family to to
Tonya Papanikolov 04:26
the best. What about you? It's 8am for me, so I am grateful for I'm just I'm really grateful for clean water and having such access to that. And yeah, feeling hydrated and sustained by good quality water. We've been getting it from a spring here on the island. And it's so good. It's just so good. So I'm very grateful for that and just like a good routine of like waking up in the morning and chugging a big, big glass before anything else. Nothing like it. Yes. The small things. That's really sweet. I saw a really adorable video of your son this weekend at the park.
Andrew Carter 05:15
Yeah. Yeah, and he's just always laugh and completely wipe out and then cry for a second thing and it's just funny. Because no, no, no a lot now. That's the thing.
Tonya Papanikolov 05:33
That's really sweet. Yeah, they really like bringing that sense of, you know, similar to mushrooms, per se. Maybe some of them. They really evoke that sense of like, childlike on Play and fun into your life, which is so good to have as adults. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So you are one of the cofounders of small holds. And will you give our audience a little rundown of what small hold is? I'm sure so many of us are familiar with the farm. But how did you get started? What is small hold?
Andrew Carter 06:07
Yeah, well, thank you. So small holders based in the United States. We're a distributed network of farms that grow specialty mushrooms in different areas in the United States. We started in Brooklyn, we have a farm here. It's where I'm calling from right now. But we also have farms in Texas and Los Angeles. Every farm is certified organic, everyone gets paid a living wage. All the mushrooms are packaged in sustainable compostable cardboard packaging. And you can get us mostly at grocery stores. Most of the business are packaged fresh mushrooms at Whole Foods, Central Market, Erawan, Ralph's sprouts, misfits we're all over the place. And hopefully more and more places in the years to come.
Andrew Carter 06:47
And we grow on waste streams, all of our waste goes to big compost projects. But the big thing is just getting really high quality mushrooms like oysters, Lion's Mane, talk a my talk a out to as many people as possible. I'm sure people who are listening might be familiar with a lot of these mushrooms. But a lot of our customers are not like a light, fresh lion's mane is a brand new experience for a lot of people. And we want to bring that quality to as many people as possible, because it's extremely important that people eat more mushrooms, not only because they're healthy, and they're great, and they can change your life, but they're very, in our opinion, a very environmentally friendly form of calories. And when you're eating more mushrooms, you're probably eating less of a lot of other stuff and want to get more and more people to be eating those things as soon as possible.
Tonya Papanikolov 07:35
Yeah, and as frequently as possible. Your mushrooms are also pesticide free, which like maybe is inherent Well, not necessarily inherent to being organic certified. But I love that because it is a pretty heavily pesticide like, you know, the mushroom industry.
Andrew Carter 07:51
Yeah, can be pretty crazy. But no, we're not. We're not using anything like that. And I think with organic, you can use certain things. But even still, I think a lot of domestic mushroom production is fairly clean. But I'm not gonna speak to other growers, because people do all sorts of stuff out there. But we definitely don't use any pesticides.
Tonya Papanikolov 08:10
Yeah, does that present any challenges in those kinds of indoor controlled environments, in the same way that it was like outdoors where there's a lot more just like farms that are interacting with a crop?
Andrew Carter 08:24
Yeah, so I mean, most like a vast majority of mushrooms are grown indoors, there's not like a huge industry of outdoor mushroom production in the US. There's semi enclosed greenhouses are more popular in Asia, mainly in China. But you can see these places where they have from palaces, and it's a little more exposed to the elements. And then there's of course, like Forest grown chateaugay, which is amazing industry that you can find in Japan is probably the highest quality, but it's it's all over the place. But in the US that's like a very, very small part of the market, vast majority of it is grown indoors.
Andrew Carter 08:59
And the stuff that you deal with. A lot of people deal with a lot of competitive molds. That's like the big thing that people are kind of scared about tracking Derma and other kinds of molds that might out compete the mushrooms. Usually they're not problems for human consumption at all, actually, it's just more about getting the yields and the quality that you want. And so people will use chemicals to deal with that. And then there's fungus gnats, and flies and stuff like that, that might lay eggs on the substrate. And in a lot of ways the problem with those again, it's not actually the NAT itself, it's that they're a vector for other kinds of problems like bacterial blotch or other kinds of competitive molds. And so they're usually trying to deal with it. Sometimes it's chemicals, but a lot of time with removal. And so that's what we haven't had issues like that in a long time. A lot of it has to do with how we manage our climates and all the technology we developed. But we also try to pay a lot of attention to it.
Andrew Carter 09:55
And so we do removal, we compost stuff. We're very careful about everything's We don't have to use chemicals because same with growing plants. I mean, that was my experience. The best thing you can do is preventative maintenance. When it's you're dealing with something where there's an actual issue, then it's very expensive. Unfortunately, a lot of people use a lot of chemicals becomes a lot harder rather than doing something weakly and being paying attention. But the best thing you can do plants and mushrooms is having a healthy crop because the healthier the crop is, the better it will be fighting off any of these things.
Andrew Carter 10:31
Competitive molds, for example, the problem with it is that you're feeding this mice. So stepping back I'm not sure how much experience we will have with growing mushrooms but the mushroom that you eat or that you might get in a tincture like can be from mycelium, but most of the time it's from fruiting bodies, like you're eating a fruiting body of an organism that grows this fibrous mat, whether it's in association with trees, or in a dead tree, or there's other kinds of applications of it, but it's this thing called mycelium.
Andrew Carter 11:03
And that Mycelium is kind of living organism and then when it needs to reproduce, it puts out these fruiting bodies which then you harvest and you cook or if that's what you're normally see when you're looking at a mushroom. But when you're doing production, you're basically feeding this by psyllium substrate. And so for us that's mostly sawdust, we use oat bran and rye berries and other sort of organic grown materials, but you're feeding it this, this food and other things want to eat that stuff as well. Other types of fungi that you don't want to grow.
Andrew Carter 11:35
And a lot of molds are way more aggressive than an oyster mushroom mycelium for example. And but as soon as the Mycelium is fully enveloped in that substrate when it's fully developed, and it actually has its own ways of biting off a lot of the fungus. And so giving it everything it needs and giving it the quality and the climate it needs and just giving it everything to be really healthy is probably the best way to deal with pests. And honestly, it's it's the same with plants, you have a healthy crop, whether it's outdoor or indoor, you have way less issues with any sort of any sort of pests.
Tonya Papanikolov 12:11
That's so interesting. And why mushrooms for you, and your co founder and take us back a little bit to I don't know if it was a Brooklyn garage, but like the shipping container that it all started in.
Andrew Carter 12:25
Yeah, so let's see. So Adam, Adam DiMartino is my co founder. We were old friends. I grew up in Los Angeles he grew up or replace, but I think he spent a lot of time in Connecticut. But we met in Vermont, we both went to school at University of Vermont. And this was not something we dreamt about in college. But I was studying similar kinds of stuff by remediation technology. And Adam was saying to be a teacher. And we've stayed very close or we lived together throughout college we like live together through periods of our lives as we moved all over the place until smell had started.
Andrew Carter 12:59
But I ended up creating my own career kind of in this indoor ag space growing plants, mostly in greenhouses. And then eventually I started getting kind of excited about mushrooms. And so before we built the shipping container I was building I was growing, trying to grow mushrooms in a basement outside of New York City. My father had a house there and he ended up passing away. And so I was helping my sister fix up the house. And on the weekends basically filling time, I would just like try to grow a trumpet mushrooms on straw, which is not a good way of doing it's very difficult.
Andrew Carter 13:33
Anyway, it looked crazy. It was definitely a weekend project. But Adam started helping me out there. And we just kind of started getting excited about it. I liked growing plants and I liked like my angle with getting into this kind of stuff was mainly that I think humanity needs to figure out how to grow food in many different ways because our climate is changing so fast that our environment is not evolving, like our plants are not evolving fast enough as fast as the climate is changing. And so if we want to exist in the same way we're existing right now, we need to figure out how to grow things in innovative ways.
Andrew Carter 14:09
And so I had a lot of experience in plants, but then started to think about other things that you grow. And mushrooms lend themselves to growing indoors, they are a lot less energy intensive than growing plants. And in a lot of ways you can feed more people with it, like I grew a lot of lettuce and tomatoes and mushrooms are you can put a mushroom on Play and kind of feed your family on it. It can be the main dish you're not you're not necessarily just gonna eat a bowl of lettuce for your full dinner. I mean, you might some people might but you can start the most sustainable thing. And so that was the original angle that I got into it from but as with many mushroom people, as soon as you start doing it, then you start thinking about it all the time.
Andrew Carter 14:54
And then you start thinking about all the applications that can have and then you start thinking about how many people should We started eating it, read all the books, and then you watch all the documentaries and then you just become a mushroom person. So we, you know, Adam and I both became mushroom people. And in 2000 at the end of 2016, and the beginning of 2017. When we got into an accelerator program, it allowed us to quit our jobs. And we at that point, we had a shipping container that like I got from Craigslist that I was going to try to grow mushrooms in under the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn. They're at this place called the Domino is now called Domino Park, but with what's called North Brooklyn farms. Oh, yeah. Okay. Cool. Yeah.
Andrew Carter 15:37
So anyone who has been so now domino factory is this old sugar, who was an old sugar factory for domino's sugar. And this big development company went and built all these two big buildings all over it, and they extended the waterfront and created this crazy Park. It's like a really same park. But it took the years to do it. And the whole neighborhood was pretty up in arms about Boisvert is already extremely gentrified. But this is next level gentrification. And so the gentrifiers we're already mad about more information. But anyway, the development company allowed some friends of ours to do this temporary farm lot. And they were excited about us trying to grow mushrooms in a container. But that was definitely like the start of small holes. Like before that it was kind of this thing that we were playing around with. And we had our jobs and we had ambitions, but it wasn't a true company. But 2017 is when that started. And we eventually got this weird little garage sort of warehouse space.
Tonya Papanikolov 16:37
Do you? Did you ever? Did you open it with like a like plot like, you know, the plastic dome?
Andrew Carter 16:44
That would be cool. Like a geodesic dome?
Tonya Papanikolov 16:46
No, just with the like, I've seen kind of these. It's kind of just like plastic wrap that you wrap around like the walls and floor, so that you kind of enter into it. And it keeps the moisture in there really well.
Andrew Carter 17:02
Yeah, so we did that. We definitely did that in the early days. Because we had I had a like a lab that was in this weird warehouse. I mean, it was like going to Home Depot like, no, totally. So it's like two by four, and then using plastic and then these like, yeah, these little zippers into the plastic. And it's, it's bad. It's probably what a lot of people use for like COVID security and stuff, honestly, but built our own laminar flow hoods and built our own labs and did all the substrate and these weird little warehouses that we had, they were given to us for a while it was free, but that eventually they started charging us but we were a tiny team, panna Shu fro who is still with us was our first hire.
Andrew Carter 17:46
And we started building out the technology that's now in all these big farms. Originally, the idea are these on site productions, which we still do. So if you go to any central market in Texas, or you go to Whole Foods and go on us are the standard hotels in the East Village. We grow mushrooms inside the store. And it's using our technology. It's like it's pretty crazy. Like people can go and look at the mushrooms grow right there. People who work there will harvest the mushrooms and then serve it on a plate or put it on the shelf. And it's a really cool application of it. But it became a very difficult thing to scale. And so people still buy them and people still seem excited about it.
Andrew Carter 18:26
But we realized during COVID That probably the fastest way we can get our mushrooms out is by applying this to larger farms. And for us a large farm is actually small compared to farming was people do one huge centralized facility. Most of it in the US is actually in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia and Kennett Township. But what we're doing are pretty, they're big facilities for us, but they're small as far as the mushroom industry is concerned. And we put them throughout the US to try to make our supply chain more efficient and have a fresher quality product for customers.
Andrew Carter 18:59
The industry at large like in the US mostly grows buttons. There's a lot of reasons for that. But one of the big reasons is because they ship really well and the United States just so vast that shipping oysters or lion's mane or many of these other kinds of mushrooms, people try to do it. It's it's difficult, it's expensive, and it requires plastic and Styrofoam and nasty packaging materials that we don't want to do. And so by having them in different regions and making that more efficient for our supply chain, then we can start to do things a little more interestingly, more interesting than the industry at large.
Tonya Papanikolov 19:37
And for anybody that doesn't know the button mushroom, the portobello mushroom and brown mushroom are all the same mushroom. Yeah, but that's all I ate growing up. That's the only mushroom I know.
Andrew Carter 19:51
Yeah. And it's a good mushroom. If it's the only mushroom you have access to great mushroom,
Tonya Papanikolov 19:55
no shade, no shade,
Andrew Carter 19:57
and most mushroom pretty users are growing on some form of compost. And so most mushroom producers are actually growing a fairly sustainable crop. There's a whole bunch of other issues, there's tons of added labor practices that are out there, that packaging, chemical use, like sure that stuff is out there. But generally speaking, the industry is a fairly sustainable industry when compared to a lot of other kinds of food production that's out there. And so it's depending on who's listening and where you are, if you don't have access to smallholder clients, then you only have access to some buttons, like definitely consume those two, they're also good for everyone.
Tonya Papanikolov 20:36
Absolutely. And as you've kind of progressed, and learned so much more about mushrooms, I want to know why mushrooms, like philosophically, for the environment, all of these applications that you've you've kind of spoken to. Yeah, what is that all that really like mean to you? How do you describe it?
Andrew Carter 20:57
Yeah, I think one of the craziest things about mushrooms is how obsessed people can become with it. And again, I imagine anyone listening to this podcast is probably kind of obsessed with mushrooms on some level. And there are there are a lot of people who are becoming obsessed with mushrooms. And I think there's a lot of theories that this might even be biologically what they're doing, they're controlling us, whatever. You know, that's one theory about that. But even if you step back, and you try not to like, explain it, I think it's pretty interesting, because there's not a lot of things like that. And there's especially a lot of food like that, where it's like part of their lifestyle.
Andrew Carter 21:35
There's not, you know, Kale was a thing. Sure people wear T shirts and stuff. But like, there's not kale societies in every city at this point. And so the mushroom thing is just so crazy. And I think that because it's also kind of this sustainable, amazing food for people to eat. And it has so many benefits. Pairing those things make this such a powerful industry and a powerful way to change in a positive way that I would love to, I would love to be able to be part of, but it's not like for us, it's for everyone to try to, to allow that to happen. I think that that's one of the most exciting things about it. Like, I like that it's healthy, and I liked it, it'll help your brain if you eat the right, certain times a day and all that kind of stuff.
Andrew Carter 22:22
ut like, on a broader picture, it's just the idea that this can like people can change their minds, not with not necessarily with psychoactive mushrooms, just in general people can become so obsessed with them is it's an amazing thing. I get excited about
Tonya Papanikolov 22:38
- Yeah, they kind of they pull you out into the world. When I launched Rainbo, I was really keen to like get people into the forest. And so we would host like quite a few forays every year. And I just always find it so amazing the way that it like surprises people and how excited they get to see the colors. And there is that invitation to explore the external world. And like just be in amazement, one of the thing I find interesting too, is, you know,
Tonya Papanikolov 23:12
I don't know what your relationship is like to this. But for me, I remember whether I practice a lot of yoga that I have for a very long time. And so in some of these lineages and practices, it was kind of always like speaking to the sense of oneness. And I think that can kind of be a little elusive for people until maybe there's like more practice or understanding or maybe deep experiences. And then you start learning about mushrooms in the way that they are on the like physical kind of, they're really part of that inter woven fabric of life on Earth. And that allows for people I think, to kind of see that, that similarity and like that there is this aspect of oneness throughout nature and interconnectivity, which is like, just Yeah. eautiful for us to to have our minds open that way.
Andrew Carter 24:06
Yeah, I mean, I always explain it in a way less eloquent way in that, like humans are a doughnut of bacteria and fungus. And trying to explain a human without fungus and bacteria in your gut. It does. We're not a human. A tree is not a tree without a micro riser relationship for the most part. Yeah. Then yeah, you're you're then you're looking at like ecosystems rather than organisms. And then what I love about that is more. I think it's funny that humans try to explain everything and I have like a science background.
Andrew Carter 24:42
And so like I try also try to explain things, but I also think people just need to let it go. And like we're not gonna be able to understand these things. Like if you're not on this, we're not on the same plane just fine. And I think that on some levels, a lot of people get excited about that where I think That's one of these things that people get bike into the space because there's so much mystery there, and we might not ever be able to explain it. But yeah, no, I agree. It's like it definitely allows people to, to look back at their selves and how they think about the world.
Tonya Papanikolov 25:16
Yeah, absolutely. I have a question for you. Okay, so you're growing mushrooms, you're working with a living organism that is changeable. So can you tell us a bit about why one flesh can be so different than another flesh in color? In size, I mean, not called like, subtleties in color. And, you know, for us, we, we don't standardize our extracts. And so there is some variability from our growth batches to batches. And I would just love to hear your take on that.
Andrew Carter 25:50
Yeah, of course, most of it starts from the genetics of where the, what you're what you're working with, with mushrooms, it's always important, like, I've never met a mushroom farmer that grows straight from spores. And so everyone is using cultures, I'm sure someone is out there. And I would love to meet these people if someone is purely growing and spores, because it's very complicated. And that seems like not an efficient and operation. But what's important about that is that they're all clones. And so you are working with the same genetics across a whole crop. There's there's methods around cycling, different genetics to make sure that you're not like creating resistance and pests and stuff like that in your farm.
Andrew Carter 26:30
But usually, you're starting with the same kind of crop in there. And so you have a baseline that you're working with. And hopefully you're working with the same substrate across the entire space, because substrate is giving it the nutrition it needs. And some people will argue that different substrates will create different flavors, I haven't necessarily seen that usually what you see is more speed for how fast it grows, depending on what kind of nitrogen levels essentially in the substrate but other things as well.
Andrew Carter 27:00
And the biggest impact to color and shape of the mushroom in our experiences, the climate, which is why we spent so much time building out the systems that we have in our farms, they're pretty amazing. We have all this data collection to all this analysis on how to grow these mushrooms. But essentially, you're trying to provide you're trying to imitate honestly, the forest floor, it's like sort of cool temperatures, high humidity, a lot of airflow. All those things when you talk about it seem really simple, but it's actually a very complex thing to manage.
Andrew Carter 27:36
Because cool temperatures usually means lower humidity. And then when you're providing a lot of airflow, then you're getting rid of all this air that you manage, especially if you're in Texas or Los Angeles, where it's like 100 degrees outside. And so we have developed a lot of technology to make that an efficient process or not just like using a ton of energy to make manage these climates. But cooler temperatures, you know, if you want to just like boil it down to really simple stuff, like cooler temperatures, a lot of the time create more vivid colors of the mushrooms. So blue oysters will be a lot more blue. If you're growing it in a cool temp, the trade off is that it grows slower.
Andrew Carter 28:11
And then you might have potential for contamination because it's growing slower. You also want to speed it up and see you also there's all these different ways you can play around with that. Lighting has some effect on like yellow wasters sometimes and blue oysters. It's a misconception that mushrooms don't need light. Some people grow buttons without light. But most of the specialty mushrooms need a little bit of light. They're not photosynthetic, though. So it's not like you need grow lights to grow mushrooms, they respond to the light. So the mycelium that's on the substrate essentially is exposed to any type of light. And it knows that that's the surface that it needs to start creating the fruiting bodies from. And so there's different ways and different types of light that you can provide that might provide a little bit different color, but most of that is is because of the temperature.
Andrew Carter 28:59
And then the shape a lot of the time has to do with how much oxygen you give it. I haven't actually how much co2 You remove from it, you can inject oxygen, but most of it has to do with just getting rid of co2, mushrooms respire, they like put out co2, not a ton like it would impact the climate or anything like that. But the co2 and a space will end up making it grow in different ways. For example, in a no key mushroom that you might buy in the store, you might if anyone listening is not familiar, it's this very thin stem with a tiny cap on top and there's like a big bunch of them. That's what you'd normally find in the store. But in the wild if you see that if anyone Google's that like a wild and oaky mushroom, it doesn't look like anything like that. It's like a bigger cap.
Andrew Carter 29:41
There's color, there's all this kind of stuff in it. But what they're doing is doing a co2 constricted grow operation and so they're basically like, allowing it to produce a bunch of co2 and they grow them in these tubes that essentially like forced to grow in this certain way that consumers really like. And so there are different ways you can use your climate To grow mushrooms in different ways, early in small hold Adam and I had the opportunity to go to Korea, Adam actually went again recently to visit some farms. But we visited a blue oyster farm. And they grew in bottles, which is a popular way of growing mushrooms. And the blue oysters grew out of the top. And they were very thin and skinny.
Andrew Carter 30:21
And they didn't have really big cap on top. And what they did was harvest it. And then people put him in a lot of soups, and they sold tons of mushrooms. But we met with the owner and we were like showing him photos on our phone of like our blue oysters, which are these like huge clusters with big caps. And that's the consumer cry and he was like I cannot ever and we're like yeah, we can't sell what you owe. So there's different methods in managing shape and size with climate, it seems to be one of the most important things.
Tonya Papanikolov 30:52
That's so helpful. Thank you have such a great answer. Very fascinating about that is it was a glass bottle or
Andrew Carter 30:59
Oh, it's those. So those are mostly plastic bottles, you can grow in like a mason jar, but they're these plastic, they look kind of like milk jugs, they're they're very specific to the mushroom industry. Trumpet mushrooms are the most commonly grown in them. But there are other operations that use them went into they're reusable. So that's an interesting aspect of them. But there's some trade offs like they fall apart after eight or 10 uses. And so it's up in the air, whether it's like better or worse on plastic consumption. But definitely some interesting operations out there using that for sure.
Tonya Papanikolov 31:35
Yeah. Which is smallholder liquid. What are your consumers kind of like the most talk is lion's mane?
Andrew Carter 31:43
It depends on where you are. Lion's Mane goes through phases, for sure. We've most of it seems to be dictated by tick tock, which is the funniest thing, like things will go viral on Tiktok. And then lions will be sold out across the country. And certain regions like in Los Angeles, we saw a lot of Lion's Mane, we've just recently launched with sprouts and lion's mane is doing really well.
Andrew Carter 32:04
They're actually which is cool. And blue oysters are most popular mushroom across when you just like blend everything up. But again, it really kind of depends on the region and what is available to these people as well. You know, it's like some places, like in New York, for example, where we are, it's a way more competitive landscape. We're not too far from Pennsylvania. There's a lot of growers out here, which we try to support as well. But, you know, we're not the only game in town that can grow trumpet mushrooms, but in Texas, there's not a lot of options out there for people and even in California. And so then it changes the next essentially of what we can what we can sell. Interesting.
Tonya Papanikolov 32:41
Is there. I mean, I guess it's kind of different because your business has grown so much in these past, you know, four, five years, four years.
Andrew Carter 32:49
Yeah, I mean, I guess technically, it's we started six years ago, which is crazy. But we didn't sell into retail until 20. The end of 2020. It was really 2021 When we started commercializing.
Tonya Papanikolov 33:03
So I guess I guess that's kind of hard to tell, because of course, just your reach with with retail and growing the business and having, you know, locations across America, but have you seen just with this, you know, surge and influx of everybody's so interested in mushrooms has that really? Have you seen that in your consumers? Your customers the interest?
Andrew Carter 33:24
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, we've we've kind of been riding that wave. But like a lot of what happened with small holes. We spent a lot of time developing this technology that we now use in our big facilities, we always have a dream of building big facilities to but it wasn't until, like the beginning phases of COVID that really, but the mushroom industry in high gear in our opinion, same with us. Yeah. And so like, people came obsessed with mushrooms for health reasons. Fantastic. One guy came out, we started all over, we're basically mainly selling in restaurants at that point. So it was kind of terrifying. But we started selling mushrooms direct. And then we started selling grow kits and that like went super viral for people just in quarantine.
Tonya Papanikolov 34:09
Do you guys still do the Grow kits?
Andrew Carter 34:11
No, not really. So we are going to It's funny you asked because we did it until fairly recently. But what we're doing is turning it on for different sort of seasonal things. And so for it's pretty popular during the holidays, and then the shipping isn't that efficient when we're not shipping too much. Our whole thing is that we're to this point, we haven't run ads ever on or at our company. Not saying we never will but we're very selective on how we do it. And running a direct to consumer product without running ads is very, very difficult.
Tonya Papanikolov 37:09
Yeah. And it definitely seems like there's the trend in that direction. Yeah, with all this interest. Speaking to China, maybe this is more of a question for Adam. But when I was with you guys, last, we were having this conversation about how should talkies are this? I want to call it a dying art. But there is an art to it. Can you tell us a bit about that market? And are you know that industry in Japan? This is so interesting.
Andrew Carter 37:39
Yeah, I feel bad. Because Adam is definitely the one to talk about. Maybe anyone listening?
Tonya Papanikolov 37:44
I'll have him on next to because he's, yeah, you guys are both just such a wealth of knowledge and so interesting. So I'd love to chat with him about it.
Andrew Carter 37:53
Yeah, yeah, you should. I mean, it's there are definitely different ways of doing it. I think what Adam would definitely say is that consumers in the US haven't really had a chateaugay Mushroom until you've really seen and had what some of these people can produce. Again, most of the mushrooms here are grown indoors, there are people like generations of generations of farms that have grown in the forests is these random areas in Japan, that these mushrooms are exposed to the elements, and they taste and are shaped in completely different ways that are basically impossible to imitate indoors. And so yeah, you should definitely talk to him back. So you got to visit some people and talk to them about it.
Tonya Papanikolov 38:37
I know he's working on a really incredible project too. So hopefully when that launches, and comes out into the world, which I really hope it does. But yeah, yeah, I'll reach out to him to bring him on. Because I know he's so passionate about
Andrew Carter 38:52
that. He really is. Yeah.
Tonya Papanikolov 38:55
Do you have any crazy experiences with mushrooms that you can tell us about?
Andrew Carter 38:59
Wow, lots of crazy experience. Have you been at Telluride?
Tonya Papanikolov 39:04
Not yet. I'm so I'm so excited. This year. Maybe I haven't planned it yet. But maybe maybe we should. Yeah, that's
Andrew Carter 39:13
a crazy experience. That's amazing. For anyone listening, there's a mushroom festival in Telluride every summer. It's been going on for years and August, right? Yeah, it's yes, August and it's in Colorado. And it's just like a bunch of mushroom people. So many different people that know so much about mushrooms care so much. And then there's forays in the woods in Colorado forest at the best time of year, like porcine, and chanterelles everywhere. Wow. And talks and then at the end there's a giant parade and a wherever dresses up like mushrooms. Party, and it's amazing.
Tonya Papanikolov 39:56
Oh yeah, that's the best. That's so so good. I've heard that in China, there's a well, I know there's like a whole province where it's there. They're really big. But within that area, there's like towns with statues and a lot of kind of reverence and festivals around it there as well.
Andrew Carter 40:15
Yeah, I can't even imagine I've heard yeah, there's like whole markets that used to be different types of mushrooms. But you can go and go to like Lion's Mane regions like that. These are just like things I've heard about, you know, but it's hard to find stuff online. There are a lot of people on LinkedIn that do post a lot that I don't know what they're writing about. But they post a lot of photos of like Rishi farms and Lion's Mane farms and stuff. And it's really interesting, actually. But smallholders grown a lot, since it's been extremely difficult to get out to China. I mean, we talked to different people out there, but about equipment and stuff like that, but we've never really imported anything.
Andrew Carter 40:52
At this point, we just really want to go and visit and meet some of these people. There are some amazing farmers out there. I think one of the there's a supply chain and environmental impact issue with imported mushrooms. But I do think that a lot of Chinese growers kind of get a bad rap in the United States. And definitely, there are reasons to be concerned about pollutants and all that kind of stuff. But assuming that everyone growing like that is not fair, because some of these people have been growing mushrooms a lot longer than they've been growing here. And hundreds of years. Yeah. And so it's very important that we all talk and figure out how to collaborate on that.
Tonya Papanikolov 41:34
Yeah. Yeah, that's a great, that's a great point. Any other misconceptions you can speak to about fungi?
Andrew Carter 41:44
I mean, the big one that we always get is that people. I mean, people say they don't like mushrooms, but they probably just don't like buttons, or they don't like canned mushrooms is actually the worst thing that happens. And we sell a lot of mushrooms these days. And so we have a lot of different consumers. And we do find that like, a lot of people out there that their experience was like a canned mushroom, and then they decided they don't like it or they decide they're allergic to it. And I'm not saying people aren't are like they're definitely allergies to mushrooms, but it is fairly rare.
Andrew Carter 42:17
And I think that a lot of people just don't like certain kinds of mushrooms and they forget that it's the entire kingdom and there are so many different types out there which are flavors and experiences that they need to try out. And they don't have to I mean, they don't need to but they should it's like saying you don't like plants, you know and not it's not the My opinion is not the best way to live your life because there's so much out there that you might enjoy. Yeah, but yeah, that's that's probably just off the top my head I think that's probably the biggest misconception we hit
Tonya Papanikolov 42:51
what are some of your favorite go to dishes with with mushrooms? Do you have a favorite mushroom?
Andrew Carter 42:58
Yeah, I mean, lately I've been doing this. Have you seen what's his name? Derek Cernos Lion's Mane steak. So that so there's there's this I don't know them very well, but they work with small holes sometimes start out brothers have this company called wicked kitchen. I think they're based in the UK. One of them had to do with Tescos for a while and they're like vegetarian dishes, but they have their own frozen meal company that uses mostly mushrooms, but kind of an influencer and does just a bunch of basic stuff with mushrooms on Instagram and Tiktok I'm sure but I'm pretty sure he invented this because I never seen anywhere else.
Andrew Carter 43:36
But you essentially like take a big cluster of lion's mane. And originally when he was doing was taking two skillets and you like heat up the skill and you just continue to we squish this the lion's mane. If you look at blindfolded steak on YouTube, you'll find this. But you squish it so many times that it gets really dense and it pushes out all the liquid and then it baste it with the liquid and it tastes like steak. I mean, it's really crazy tasting and get a patient on it. But then he's kind of taken to the next level and you do this by and you soak it in a bunch of different stuff and they're kind of being secretive about exactly what's in it but it seems to be a mix of like wine and beets and herbs and you use like pulverized beets and you soak the lion's mane in it for a while and you do the same process but it like looks like meat and I kind of taste really crazy because it looks like like red meat inside of it.
Tonya Papanikolov 44:32
Do you do soak it like the like you know the cluster or after?
Andrew Carter 44:37
I've tried it a few different ways and the way and I like maybe you should get this guy on the podcast too because I don't want to explain it for the video that I saw. It seems like you saute it you cook it a little bit before you do the full cook and so you squish it a little bit and then you put it in like a little bit put it in like Tupperware or whatever, and then cover it with whatever liquid it is. So it's like wine and then blended beads. And then that you let sit for as long as possible, ideally a day, but you could probably let it sit for a few hours.
Andrew Carter 45:13
And then after that you cook it fully. But I also did it where you just soaked the mushroom without cooking it. And it seemed to work too. Lion's Mane itself has a lot of moisture in it in general. And so the cooking it beforehand allows you to push out some of the moisture that eventually would get replaced by the red stuff. But it's amazing. It's like, I just love that because it's like, a completely different way of cooking things. Normally, I'm just kind of like roasting mushrooms and putting it in a pan and stuff. But this is just a completely different process. And it's pretty cool.
Tonya Papanikolov 45:50
That sounds amazing. Yeah, well, I'll make sure I find the video and then link it in the show notes. It's kind of to wrap up. Yeah, what have been some of the big you know, I, I'm sure you do to have all these conversations with mushroom people. And so I love it so grateful to be in this community. And you know, it's spoken to this at the beginning. There's such teachers what have been some of the big ways that this has impacted your life. Because you know, you're you're you're running a business and you work so closely with them, you're interacting with them on a daily basis, you've eaten so many that are part of you. What have been some of those big lessons for you even just on a personal level?
Andrew Carter 46:30
I think that one of the it's kind of what I referenced earlier is that one of the things that drew me to mushrooms was the mystery of them where I was like, wow, like people don't really know how to grow chanterelles. You know, it's like, people don't truly know how to grow mycorrhizal mushroom. And that was completely crazy to me, because there's a lot of knowledge around growing plants, like there's a lot of texts and teachers and all that.
Andrew Carter 46:57
And I was originally like, wow, that means there's a lot to discover. But then I kind of over the period, like, yes, there's a lot to discover. And it's important to continue to learn about them, but also like, not understanding them is totally fine. I think that is definitely one of the big things that I've learned in this process, while working with one guy is just that, like, it's totally okay not to know and not to understand and just kind of like go and like you can live your life and cultivate mushrooms for food and take it like I always think about small holes and mushrooms is in through my lens like I am a farmer would never call myself a mycologist and know more about mushrooms than a lot of people but like, I come from it from a lens of growing food.
Andrew Carter 47:45
And I think that like letting go with you might not know everything. And you might not know how someone else kind of proceeds to these organisms and how someone else might explain it. It's a lot easier way to live life, I think, than trying to understand everything. It's everyone and control everything. And I know it's kind of funny because we like have control on our climates and they do all this kind of techno stuff that seems very controlling. But in some ways it is but I do think that there's a limit to it. And I think that it's important to acknowledge that because you're not gonna know things and that's totally okay.
Tonya Papanikolov 48:17
That's probably a lesson you've come to come to also see the value in with a toddler. Yeah. Yeah, gonna have to just go with the flow. Right? Exactly. That's such a good lesson. No one's ever said that one before. Yeah, I love that because it's like, I think just, you know, on a psychological level to just the ways that we can hold ourselves back in trying to control things and and know it's so natural and human and yet yeah, it's very, very true that that mushrooms do have that response and elicit that in us or can last question I also ask all guests this question, if you could leave us with a wish and intention a prayer for the audience for the collective what would it be?
Andrew Carter 49:04
I would say to eat more mushrooms. Rare but again, I'm sure that people here eat mushrooms but try to eat more of them and try to find ways of preparing them try to find I mean sure if smallholders there, we appreciate the support but go to your local farmers market find some local mushroom growers. They're all over the place and tried to experiment because there's there's so much to offer and so much so much enjoy, I think is the best thing I can offer.
Tonya Papanikolov 49:42
Thank you that is poignant. And I totally agree. Eating more mushrooms is not only delicious, but just so health supportive. Yeah, thank you so much for sharing all this knowledge and your experience and telling us more about you Are you in small hold and all the good stuff that you guys are up to anything coming down the pipeline for a small hole that we should know about?
Andrew Carter 50:06
Well, yeah, I mean, we're getting in a bunch of new stores. And so we're in. We just did a big sprouts launch on the West Coast and some Ralph Stores show on the west coast but blends but we're excited about that. We're also going to be launching a few other mushroom products in the food space. We're not really getting into the the tincture space or anything like that. So just kind of follow us on Instagram or check out our website. We have a big newsletter and you can find out more more there.
Tonya Papanikolov 50:36
Cool. Thank you again, Andrew. Thank you with deep gratitude. Thanks for tuning into this episode. If you liked it, hit subscribe and leave us a review that is always very appreciated. Mushrooms transformed my mind and body. And if you're interested in bringing medicinal mushrooms into your life and health journey, check out rainbo.com for our meticulously sourced Canadian fruiting body mushroom tinctures. Until next time, peace in and peace out friends.
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