Brooklyn-based mushroom farm supplies restaurants and stores
NEW YORK -- On a small street tucked away in Bedford-Stuyvesant, thousands of mushrooms grow in climate-controlled rooms.
On Tuesday, CBS2's Hannah Kliger went inside the headquarters of Smallhold, a Brooklyn-based specialty mushroom farm that uses patented technology to produce the crazy, colorful, and cartoonish toadstools that later end up in grocery stores and restaurants.
Smallhold co-founder and CEO Andrew Carter says they started in 2017 in a shipping container under the Williamsburg bridge.
"We felt like if you could do it in Brooklyn, you could do it anywhere," he says.
The current location has five growing rooms, each of them, climate controlled for things like temperature and humidity, to create the optimal conditions for the type of mushroom being grown.
As our country deals with supply chain shortages, there's a renewed conversation around local produce and urban farming. The company has also recently spread its spores to Austin and Los Angeles. Carter says the demand has been fueled, in part, by the pandemic, when they introduced at-home growing kits.
"People are tying to eat less meat," he says, "to either decrease their carbon footprint or increase their health."
Its something that local grocery stores are noticing, too. Kris Fuertsch, produce department manager at The Greene Grape, says customers are prioritizing healthy and local produce.
"I think that as the pandemic progressed, people have not only found more joy and pleasure in cooking for themselves at home, but a lot more necessity as well," Fuertsch says.
Sometimes, local can mean grown just a few feet away. Maison Yaki is one of five locations in the city that partners with Smallhold to grow its mushrooms right on-site. Neon-colored boxes of oyster mushrooms above the bar grow enough product to supply owner Greg Baxtrom's three restaurants in Prospect Heights.
"We've definitely had people that just poke their head in, not even to stay, and ask, what the heck is going on up there?" he says.
There are several on-site installations operated by Smallhold around the city, including an educational one at the Lower East Side Girl's Club, which supplies mushrooms to a local soup kitchen.
Smallhold's team says across the three facilities nationwide, they grow tens of thousands of pounds a week. Clearly, you don't need much room to grow mushrooms.
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