The open forum of a marketplace provides a refreshing getaway from shopping aisles. Each venue offers a unique setting that may include activities for children, live entertainment, and an array of foods. The curious shopper discovers they have direct access to fresh and locally grown fruits, herbs, flowers, and vegetables, dairy-based products, proteins, homemade goodies, and artisan-based, handmade crafts. In addition, the welcoming man or woman behind the table offers a small sampling of popular items. Whether you are a first-timer or repeat customer, take the time to introduce yourself, ask questions, and inquire if owners receive visitors or have a farm store. Most likely, the answer is “yes” or “it’s coming soon!”
From 8:30 AM to noon, year-round, Saturday mornings offer an exciting opportunity for anyone in love with farm-fresh or homemade products! At 1001 South Marshall Street, Winston-Salem, Cobblestone Farmer’s Market is an ideal location to buy quality goods that accompany the small business standard! Stop by and visit the table of Ernie and Cathy Wheeler of Borrowed Land Farm! You’ll find mushroom kits and a wide selection of whole bean and ground, if preferred, international coffee! Don’t worry if you are running errands; shoppers can schedule a pick-up from 8:30 AM until 11:00 AM to ensure you have essential goodies for the week!
Why Not Mushrooms
Every small business owner has a grand story of why they started the endeavor. It’s not every day a couple of marine biologists dabble into the field of growing mushrooms! Cathy explains, “We once enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner in Oregon prepared from entirely local ingredients: foraged chanterelle mushrooms, smoked elk, tuna, cattail shoots, and wild greens. It tasted great and made us feel more connected to the land. Now, we want to help provide a similar experience for others—great tasting, local food with a story.”
Borrowed Land Farm
Home for the Wheeler’s is at the foot of Pilot Mountain in Surry County, surrounding specular views, rolling hills, and acres of trees. The unexpected reality is edible mushrooms grow within a sterile, temperature, and humidity-controlled room. The converted 1880s farmhouse allows the Wheeler family to live and prepare “Shroom Cubes,” termed fruiting blocks year-round. Cultures of spawn applied to hydrated sawdust mixtures with soy pellets create the optimal environment, providing wood-loving mushroom production at any scale for the hobbyist to the farmer! The result is a seven-inch cube weighing under six pounds. Over the course of several fruitings, the block can produce up to two pounds of mushrooms.
Ernie and Cathy are happy to advise groups or individuals of viable mushroom cultivation practices. On the other hand, if you ever desired to grow mushrooms, Borrowed Land Farm simplifies the time to a matter of weeks. For $30, interested growers could buy a package of 500 Shiitake inoculation plugs. The cost of $20 offers a fully colonized and ready to fruit “Shroom cube grow kit” or a five-pound bag of mushroom spawn. Fruiting blocks come in sizes measuring five or ten pounds each.
Changing the Model
Like many producers in the region, 2020 impacted the ebb and flow of Borrowed Land Farms’ seasonal year, grinding the momentum of business to a halt. Rather than continue producing fruiting blocks, growing fresh mushrooms, advertising, and distributing, the Wheelers partnered with a nonprofit company, “Growing for Good.” With two eager lab assistants meeting the demands to increase the number of fruiting blocks, Ernie realized a desire to pursue an unexpected passion.
Ernie shares, “It began as a pandemic project. I built a stainless-steel roaster using a heat gun and an infrared thermometer. From there, my Christmas gift idea of roasting coffee for family and friends transitioned into a serious investment- a commercial roaster. I discovered I had the talent to blend flavors to make a great cup of coffee. I’d put my beans up against any other brand.” Gallus, meaning rooster in Latin, implies you should wake up with the rooster’s crow and settle into a popular favorite. “Ethiopia,” a light-medium roast, includes the notes of honey, green tea, and lemongrass; Papua New Guinea, a medium to dark roast, brings out the flavors of chocolate, dried fruit, and nuts with each sip! Regardless of your choice, it’s promised to be delicious!
Next Month: Saura Creek Farms