In 2010 Beth Morgan and Oz Austin discovered the extraordinary role that fungi play in nature. Since then they have researched, practised and applied techniques of mushroom cultivation in pursuing a business fundamentally founded on their passion for fungi and reflecting their personal ethical values.
Underpinning everything is a strong commitment to the principles of organic cultivation, they are guided by permaculture principles, creating as they grow their mushrooms, opportunities for wider natural systems to develop and flourish. Thus, for example, the nutrient dense gourmet and medicinal mushrooms they produce, use locally sourced waste materials in their culture and fruiting
For the last three years they have been developing a small-scale indoor growing facility in a space set high on a hill between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge at Pextenement Farm – an organic diary farm and home of the award winning cheese. (Eat your hearts out those not in Yorkshire and who can’t get hold of it!!). This demonstration site is now being expanded by a small outdoor cultivation and research space in order to grow mushrooms as companions to plants.
In our discussions they consonantly emphasised the ‘closed loop cycles’ throughout their business, such as waste products being fed back into their systems for use by other strains and cultures. This has direct commercial benefits as well as minimising impact on the environment. It provides, for example, the ability to grow a wide range of mushroom species within one space, constructing and organising in a manner that takes advantage of the different light, humidity, and gaseous conditions that exists over space and time.
They are also believers in the innate relationship between permaculture and long-term well-being. Their aim is to inspire and educate others, impacting beyond the production of their mushrooms and improving the health of individuals, communities and the environment as they engage with the business.
In researching for Feeding Body and Soul, I’d come across so many people recommending Beth and Oz I had concluded that what they don’t know about fungi was not worth knowing. Having talked with them what I think is more to the point is the way they combine an incredible knowledge not only with a burgeoning passion and commitment for the subject, but with the humility to argue that rather than experts, they are, and always will be, in a process of constant ongoing learning.
As we walked around their corner of Pextenement Farm on a cold damp Pennine morning, we were accompanied by the lively Odis, Beth and Oz’s young boy. This was no accident or special treat for him. One of the aims when setting up their own business was to have their children around them in the business. This they do with utmost ease. What a lucky lad!!
For more about that Pextenement cheese, see the farm company website