ELKHART — Jared Bell is on a mission to make mushroom farming a new agricultural powerhouse in the state.
Bell, 27, is a South Bend native who moved to the Goshen area about five years ago. He and his wife, Klarisa, started Myco Mushrooms out of their garage in late 2019, selling about 200 pounds of gourmet mushrooms a week to local restaurants and farmers markets.
“The name comes from the word Mycology, which is the study of mushrooms,” Bell said of the business. “I was completely self-educated on the subject of mushrooms. I did not come from a family of farmers whatsoever. My mom, she was born in Boston, and raised in Germany, and then moved back to the States when she was pregnant with me. So, we lived in the city for most of my life. Coming out here to the Goshen area, you could say that was kind of a cultural shock to me.”
Bell credits his farm’s origin to an article he discovered several years ago about a man from Ohio who started his own gourmet mushroom farm. The concept intrigued him, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“It was just something where I was sitting in my basement one night, and I came across an article about a young man in Ohio who started a small gourmet mushroom farm, and I just dived deeper into it, and kind of figured that it might be something that I would like to try,” Bell said. “And the more research I did on it, the more I found out that it’s not an agricultural crop that has a strong presence here in the United States. In fact, a majority of the mushrooms here in the U.S. are being shipped from China and other countries in Asia. Some make their way from Canada as well, but the majority of the commercial mushrooms in the world are produced in China.”
Once his farm was established and he began making local business connections, demand for his mushrooms quickly increased, Bell explained.
“As far as the types of mushrooms we grow, we only grow gourmet and exotic species of mushrooms,” Bell said, noting that the mushrooms can be harvested year-round due to the controlled environments in which they’re grown. “So, we don’t grow Portobello or white button mushrooms, not because they’re not a profitable mushroom, but, you know, mainly my concern with them was that they’re secondary decomposers. So, they decompose waste products, like manure, and I personally didn’t want to work with that.
“So, we grow wood-based decomposing mushrooms, which are your oyster mushrooms, we grow black pearl king mushrooms, which are a huge, hulking, meaty mushroom, and really awesome,” he added. “We also grow lion’s mane mushrooms, and those are not just a gourmet edible mushroom, but they also double almost as a medicinal mushroom with a lot of health benefits. Those are easily one of our most popular mushrooms, because lion’s mane, they have the same texture as lobster and crab meat. Chefs love them, and we had people coming all the way from Chicago to get lion’s mane mushrooms. It was really cool.”
GROWING THE BUSINESS
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in early 2020, while many other local businesses were reducing capacity or even closing completely, Myco Mushrooms continued to thrive to the point where expansion was looking like an inevitability.
“And eventually the mushrooms just kind of took over our basement and our garage, and we started running out of room, and we had to look to expand quickly,” Bell said. “We were looking at some plots of land for sale in Goshen to build our new facility, but we ended up finding a better fit for us right there off of C.R. 17 in Elkhart.”
That facility, which is set to be fully operational by the end of July, is a 3,500-square-foot mushroom barn that will include a fruiting room, cooling units and a processing and packaging area for the mushrooms.
“The journey of the expansion started at the end of the summer last year when I realized that there was no way I could keep up with the demand from the farmer’s market and all the restaurants opening back up,” Bell said. “And, while I was in the farmer’s market, I was having sales people from produce distributors that were coming in to get our mushrooms, and they were highly interested in possibly getting mushrooms from us. And I’m like, ‘Well, here are more people to add to the list.’ And then, with more research into the market, it was just viable for us to expand. I mean, it was just a decision that we couldn’t say no to.”
Once the new facility is up and running, Bell said his understanding is that Myco Mushrooms will officially become the largest gourmet mushroom farm in Indiana.
“We’re looking at producing about 3,000 pounds a week out of that building, so, 12,000 pounds a month,” Bell said. “To my knowledge, there’s no mushroom farm that produces near the amount of quantity that we’re going to be producing, and that’s coming from people in the state health department and everything. And those guys are the ones that have to go through and inspect these farms.”
Always thinking ahead, Bell said he’s already making plans for what’s next for the business. And to hear him tell it, he’s not thinking small by any means.
“The whole goal of our new building is that we’ll be producing so much weight that I’ll be able to provide product to our local community, but I’ll also be able to provide wholesale produce distributors with our gourmet mushrooms as well,” Bell said. “So, we want to be local, regional, and eventually national. We want to try to hit every level of the market.
“Future expansion is always on my mind, and I have a feeling that we’ll be looking at buying another building here in about a year to a year and a half to expand production even further,” he added. “I’m trying to create a multi-generational farm. I’m a zero-generational farmer right now. I’m the first farmer in the family, and I want it to continue on. My vision for the future of our farm is to make it a new agricultural powerhouse in the state of Indiana.”
For more information about Myco Mushrooms or to learn about the farm’s products, visit mycomushroomsllc.com.