This Chef’s Corner article was written by Steven Bell, owner of 5th Kingdom. We use their mushrooms in some of our menu items and specials. Chef David sources from 5th Kingdom because we support other local small businesses.
My goal in starting 5th Kingdom was simple: to bring sustainably produced world class mushrooms to the people of Atlanta.
Mushroom farming is not a common occupation in the South so, “Why mushrooms?” is a question I get asked fairly often. I got into the mushroom business after trying out several career paths that left me feeling incomplete and unsatisfied.
About 5 years ago I left a 9-5 job to work fulltime at an organic farm on St. Croix in the Caribbean. I loved the work but was not making ends meet on the island so I went back to graduate school to get a degree in Landscape Architecture. I graduated in 2009 right after the crash of the building industry and was left with few job prospects.
After a fruitless job search I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands and create a job and career for myself. Having been a small scale organic farmer previously I knew that there was potential to make a good living by growing high quality specialty foods. When fate and a lovely lady lead me to Atlanta to stay I looked around and saw a market gap in that no one was consistently growing and selling specialty mushrooms.
Atlanta has become a hotbed of fine dining establishments and is home to a large population of epicureans and thus I gathered would easily support a local mushroom farm and farmer. So over the course of a year I researched how to grow mushrooms (finally putting my undergraduate degree in Biology to good use) and worked out the economics of the venture.
In October of 2012 I was able to secure funding for the project and began to build the farm. We started our first batch of mushrooms just two weeks later.
I love being a mushroom farmer because I get to work with my hands every day;
I am an active contributor to the local food movement; and my efforts provide my community with food that is highly nutritious and undeniably delicious.
Our entire mushroom harvest is sold locally often within hours of harvest. By producing and selling at the point of consumption in the heart of the Atlanta Metro, 5th Kingdom is able to deliver quality mushrooms that are superior to any others on the market.
In fact, by producing and selling locally we are able to offer varieties that simply are not available from out of state produces as they cannot withstand cross country transportation. An example of this is the Golden Oyster Mushroom. These beautiful mushrooms are extremely fragile and have a limited shelf life.
5th Kingdom is able to bring this unique nutty-flavored mushroom directly to restaurants and farmers markets where it can be enjoyed. And, we just harvested our first crop of Lion’s Mane Mushroom cultivated entirely indoors at our facility. This is a huge milestone for the company as 5th Kingdom is one of only a handful of growers in the US producing this incredible mushroom.
It is hands down one of the best mushrooms available with its rich lobster like flavor and texture. Like many mushrooms, Lion’s Mane has medicinal qualities as well and has been shown to improve brain function.
Mushrooms are natures natural recyclers
We learn in school that mushrooms are Nature’s recyclers and it’s true. All of our mushrooms are grown using waste products from other agricultural processes like sawdust from sawmills where hardwood flooring is made, and on wheat straw bailed after the wheat crop is harvested.
Mushrooms feed on this material decomposing it, breaking it down and then recomposing it turning low value organic waste into a valuable and highly nutritious food. And they do it without the use of fertilizers. Because we grow our mushrooms indoors, there are very few pest problems meaning that there is no need for the use of harmful pesticides.
Another positive feature of mushroom farming is that it fits well in an urban environment as the process is clean, quiet and is highly productive even in a very small area. The 5th Kingdom farm has a 1000sf of enclosed growing area and an additional 1800sf of service space.
In this tiny foot print, we are able to produce up to 1,600 pounds of mushrooms every month. That’s over 9 tons of food per year which is more than 40 times the amount of rice than can be produced in the same area in a year. Mushroom farming requires very little water and produces no toxic byproducts. In fact the material that leaves the farm is used to create soil which can then be used to produce more crops completing the food production cycle.
If you’d like to learn more about 5th Kingdom, please visit our website: www.5thkingdom.com.
For up to date information on markets check out our FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/5thkingdom.