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The Maine Mushroom Boom Brings Mycology to the Masses
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The Maine Mushroom Boom Brings Mycology to the Masses

Matt Greaney
Matt Greaney
May 20, 2024
2 min

When I moved to Maine in 2015, the state’s beautiful shoreline, food, beer and agricultural scene had won me over. I got my ag. growing chops in Vermont but the ocean ultimately won out and I chose the Gulf of Maine over the Green Mountains of Vermont partially because it felt like what was happening in Maine aligned more closely with the salty attitude I had grown to love. 

Mushrooms were mostly frowned upon growing up as a harbinger of decay, darkness, mystery and at worst, poison–probably best to just stay away. On one fortuitous day in 2010, however, I went into the woods with a couple friends and found a handful of morels. I was psyched to add mushrooms to the list of foraged treasures that I could identify along with roadside elderberries, autumn olives and ramps. I was soon gifted a copy of Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets from a friend in Vermont and my interest was further piqued.

I had a couple of logs that I inoculated and was proud of my mini harvest of oysters which I dehydrated and put in the pantry for the winter. It was through David Sparh’s book, “Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of Northern New England and Eastern Canada” that I started to go out into the woods more often. I soon celebrated the Bear Head Tooth specimen I had found behind my house and cooked it for my wife and I one September evening.

At this point it felt like the mushroom scene, at least in New England, was very niche and mostly composed of backyard farmers and survivalists. That perception changed when I saw Maine Cap n’ Stem on Instagram and resonated with their metal imagery and punk rock/DIY ethic. North Spore soon came along offering home growing kits for dabblers in the mushroom culinary arts.


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It wasn’t until the pandemic when everyone was at home waiting for the apocalypse to unfold that people were baking their own bread and growing their own mushrooms from kits in earnest. The interest took off with the most unlikely of friends and family (see: my mom) taking to mycological cultivation in the comfort of their own homes. Mushroom walks were popping up around the state with folks excited about drying their harvest or cooking them fresh to impress their company at the dinner table.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to chat with Tyler Crawford, General Manager at Maine Cap n’ Stem about why Maine has become a hotbed for commercial cultivation and general appreciation of our favorite fungi fruiting bodies

“Maine’s outsized impact in the mushroom industry is because of the people who moved here who saw it as a place that was conducive to lifestyles centered around agriculture and community. It was this momentum that built on itself to help proliferate small and medium mushroom farms as well as brands that have national reach.”

Maine Cap n’ Stem has seen steady growth since its inception in 2014 moving from a 200 square-foot shop space to a 20,000 square-foot facility in Gardiner and now 90,000 square-foot lab/shipping depot in Lewiston. They’re developing one of the first genetic breeding programs for gourmet mushrooms, focusing on new, more potent and resilient strains for the market. They’re also building a cordyceps operation for genetic preservation and growing at large scale for commercial markets.

“The US still has a long way to go in accepting mushrooms into people’s everyday lives” explains Crawford. With culinary, medicinal and therapeutic uses being embraced more and more by the mainstream it seems like growth is inevitable especially in the richly entrepreneurial state of Maine.


Matt Greaney is a farmer and writer in midcoast Maine. When he’s not writing about the obscure absurdities of life you can find him exploring New England’s natural beauty with his wife and daughter on Instagram or contact him at mattgreaneyonline@gmail.com.


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culture
Matt Greaney

Matt Greaney

Writer

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