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Make Room for Mushrooms

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Mycophile: a devotee of mushrooms especially: one whose hobby is hunting wild edible mushrooms [Merriam-Webster].
    And Elizabeth Almeida is true example of this specialized vocation. What started out as a hobby for the lifelong farmer and businesswoman has become a full-time occupation as she has established a strong foothold in the niche industry of organic mushroom cultivation.
Elizabeth Almeida with her mushroom crop at Fat Moon Farm. Photo by Jen Hammond

At her Fat Moon Farm on West Road, Almeida not only grows mushrooms but also sells the means and knowledge that allow others to do so at their own home. The sole proprietorship has been a popular outlet for restaurants and markets throughout the region for six years.

“The name came from my husband and son (our son was about 18 months at the time) looking up at a full moon and calling it the Fat Moon. I was just starting the business at the time and knew I wanted a name with ‘moon’ because the full moon is iconic in agriculture; however, Full Moon and Harvest Moon were too boring. I love the name because it conveys a sense of fun and makes people smile.” Almeida explained.
Final inspection before packaging. Photo by Piper Jo Nevins
Although most her revenue comes from wholesale orders, COVID has slightly altered the clientele. “The pandemic has actually helped my business,” Almeida said. Most of the restaurants, which had been her regular stream of demand, stopped ordering. But this widespread closure of cafes caused consumers to flock to local farmers markets. And in that, a new market emerged for Fat Moon to supply.
A plate of mushrooms from Fat Moon Farm. Photo by Piper Jo Nevins

“As people stopped going to restaurants and to entertainment events, the household budgets allowed for more spending money.” And with more time at home to prepare meals, organic ingredients became a coveted staple. These ingredients are found at the local markets but can also be purchased directly from Fat Moon–online orders then curbside pickup.

And there is a growing desire among consumers to delve into the activity. Aspiring mycophiles can get grow kits, classes and on-line tutorials form Almeida, who says that grow kits were a popular gift this past holiday season.  And she suspects that Valentine’s Day will see her produce find a new audience.
   “Our GYO Class, which begins Feb. 5, will culminate with a beautiful harvest of mushrooms, a week later, just in time for preparing a delicious Valentine’s dinner at home. This class has all the characteristics of a great gift – local, consumable, interactive, educational, novel, fun, compostable…”

The Grow-Your-Own kits, Zoom classes and product-ordering information can be found on the company’s website.  Almeida also has dozens of YouTube videos posted for aspirants and consumers to check out.

Elizabeth Almeida leads a foray into the forest in search of wild mushrooms, with Deb Bannerjee (left). Photo by Derek Soohoo.

For the outdoorsy type, Almeida has spring/summer adventures. Forays into the forest around East Boston Camps at Stony Brook Conservation Land are available for anyone interested in learning about wild mushrooms, their habitat and palatability. “I mostly to educate people about what is edible in the wild.”

  The forays are quite popular, sometimes 20 people, with a minimal cost. And all the proceeds from the guided woods’ hikes are donated back to East Boston Camps to help maintain the pristine wilderness.
If you would like to be featured on Westford CAT’s weekly business column, email me sshurtleff@westfordcat.org