Four generations and 80 years after coming to fruition, Canada's longest running mushroom farm continues to grow.
"My great grandfather was a bricklayer who came from England around 1900," said Burton Loveday, owner and president of Manitoba's Loveday Mushroom Farms.
"In the summer of 1929 he built a mushroom farm for a group of investors... but they couldn't -- or wouldn't -- pay him for it after he finished the facility. So he went to the court, and they awarded him the land and the facilities."
Nearly a century after such humble beginnings, Loveday Mushroom Farms has spawned into a rather vast operation, selling fungi throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario.
150 thousand pounds of mushrooms are produced each week by 200 employees between their two farms in St. Boniface and Springfield, MB., with production slated to increase with a second Springfield farm that opened yesterday.
"Because they are very perishable, a lot of our customers want seven day a week delivery," said Burton. "So we pick, pack and ship mushrooms everyday of the year except Christmas day."
In Manitoba Loveday grows white button, brown crimini and portobello mushrooms, while more exotic, yet still cultivatable varieties, are also marketed.
"We do sell shiitake, enoki, maitake and oyster mushrooms, but the volumes of those are very, very, very small so we just bring those in on an as-need basis," said Burton.
Apparently the average Manitoba mushroom consumer isn't as cultured toward these varieties, which is a shame because they are quite delicious and surely Loveday's Springfield operation, which I toured this week, could provide fertile ground for them.
"This entire farm is organic... but maybe 15 percent of what we grow here actually gets sold as organic," said Burton of the Springfield farm. "Even though the other 85 percent we grow here is organic, it doesn't go out under an organic label."
"It's what the customer wants."
It's a strange scenario, but mind you mushrooms have always carried a bit of mystique.