Mother Earth touting exotic mushrooms at OPS
Mother Earth will soon be headed to the Organic Produce Summit, with a trio of team members — Meghan Klotzbach, vice president of sales, marketing and operations; Tom Leo, sales and procurement manager; and Mark Kreiner, outside sales coordinator — at booth No. 219. “We will be displaying our current assortment with a key focus on exotic mushrooms,” Kreiner said. The Landenberg, PA-based company grows 100 percent certified organic mushrooms and Mother Earth aims to sell as many of them as its can, being it is the most important part of the business.
“We grow about 15 million pounds a year,” Klotzbach said. “We transitioned to growing organically in 1989, selling our first certified organic mushrooms in 1990. Our family made the decision to move to organic growing practices in order to protect our family and employees from the harsh chemicals and pesticides that were being used in the industry at that time.”
Jim Yeatman, a third-generation owner at the time, worked with a local organic certifier to build out an organic mushroom certification plan. Since mushrooms are grown very differently than most other crops, there was a lot of education that went into building the program.
“When we first started selling organic mushrooms in 1990, only 1 percent of our sales were organic,” Klotzbach said. “This became very hard to maintain growing all of our mushrooms organically, since the sales were not there yet. We transitioned about 60 percent of our growing back to conventional practices in order to match our sales closer. We used what we learned while growing organically to create safer growing methods conventionally.”
By 2012, when organic sales began to grow, the company converted back to 100 percent organic growing methods. Today, about 70 percent of Mother Earth’s organically grown mushrooms are sold organically “We have been growing organically for over 30 years and we have become quite efficient at it,” Klotzbach said. “The most important thing to remember when growing organically is to keep good, clean, well-sealed growing facilities, since we do not have a list a pesticides and chemicals at our disposal to combat pests and disease. We are someone that our customers can trust to do what is right, so at the end of the day that is what matters most.”
During the past two years, Mother Earth dropped its production due to rising costs and lack of labor, though the demand of mushrooms in the retail sector has continued to grow. “With astronomic rising costs for inputs, fuel and labor, we may see less mushrooms available in the market and for a higher cost,” Klotzbach said. “With the current demand for organic mushrooms rising, we hope to continue to be able to reach that demand.”
Summer is a slower season for sales, but mushrooms are aplenty and Portabellas are always great during the summer months for grilling. “Mushrooms are a super food,” Klotzbach said. “They are one of the biggest names in immune boosting foods right now. Between the health benefits, the versatility of the product and The Blend, mushrooms are a hot topic.”
The company feel exotic mushrooms are increasing in popularity, which is why it will focus on those at OPS. “Exotic mushrooms like Oysters, Maitakes, Royal Trumpets, and Lion’s Mane mushrooms are taking a big leap with consumer awareness,” Klotzbach said. “We see Lion’s Mane as the variety that will take the largest leap in sales in the next year. We will be releasing a new SKU: 3.5-ounce organic Lion’s Mane this July at the Organic Produce Summit.”