How an Idaho boy’s science project went from a mess to a thriving business 🍄

A Nampa Christian middle school student’s passion for growing edible mushrooms began in 8th grade — when he decided to grow some for a science project.

Although the science project failed—because he didn’t make it past the first few stages of mushroom cultivation—his drive to become a successful mushroom grower stayed with him.

Today, 20-year-old Brody Ferguson runs his own mushroom farm—Ferg’s Fabulous Fungi—in Greenleaf, Idaho, and sells his produce at several farmers markets, online and at several local restaurants, including Alavita, KIN and High Note Cafe.

A science experiment for sustainable business

“I said in high school that I never wanted to be a mushroom grower for a living, it’s just a weird personality, but now I’m doing it full time and I love it!” Ferguson said.

After his science experiment, Ferguson spent several years learning and experimenting with the breeding process.

“I also realized that I was the only person in the state doing what I was doing and that it had the potential to grow into something pretty big!” he said. “So after about a year of selling some restaurants, I officially started my business, Ferg’s Fabulous Fungi.”

After high school, he earned an associate degree in agricultural business from the College of Western Idaho. Then last spring he decided to devote his time and energy to developing his business.

Mushroom cultivation process

“The whole process of growing mushrooms can be quite complicated as everything is grown in a completely controlled environment,” he said.

First, Ferguson said, he starts by making blocks based on sawdust, which are hydrated, sterilized and placed in a sterile laboratory environment into which the fungal mycelium (root system) is introduced. Depending on the species, it takes two weeks to two months for these sawdust to fully grow. A fully colonized block is then cut open and introduced into the middle of the growth chamber. The grow room has full spectrum lighting and is around 65 degrees year round and 80-90% relative humidity.

“Southwest Idaho can be a challenging climate to maintain perfect conditions and often requires some ingenuity to achieve adequate heating, cooling and humidification, he said. “Fresh oxygen, humidity and a slight change in temperature stimulate the mushroom block to start forming small fungi or primordia. These little mushrooms will grow quickly, doubling in size every day, and usually mature in 1-2 weeks!”

Grow your own

“That being said, growing mushrooms can become fun and easy with my ready-to-grow mushroom growing kits,” said Ferguson. “It’s as simple as Cut, Spritz, Pick and Repeat!”

Grow kits come with one fully grown substrate block, a spray bottle and an instruction sheet. Types of mushrooms you can grow include oyster mushrooms, lion’s mane and piopinos – all of which can be grown indoors.

“I’m making these kits so that everyone can enjoy the activity of growing their own delicious mushrooms on the kitchen counter in just 9 days!” he said. “One of my favorite things is hearing people’s enthusiasm when they come back after growing their own mushrooms.”

Kits and more are available here or at a discount at the Boise Farmers Market, Capital City Farmers Market or farm pickup.

“So yeah, it’s crazy to say I turned an 8th grade science project into a full-time job, but I figure if you love doing it and you’re good at it, why stop!” he said. “I believe the industry will continue to grow, so I plan to keep doing what I’m doing and expand as quickly as possible!”

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