Business Is Mushrooming

Mycoterra Farm saw a niche and filled it - deliciously

By Leslie Lynn Lucio | Recipe photographs by Dominic Perri

When Julia Coffey decided, as an experiment, to start growing mushrooms for sale, she had no idea how much of a part of her life they would become. Now the owner of Mycoterra Farm, started in 2010 at her home in the woodlands of western Massachusetts, Julia started with a small amount of savings, some previously owned mushroom equipment, and 15 years of studying fungi.



She decided to take a chance on something that was familiar to her and felt it would complement the local agricultural economy in the Pioneer Valley.

“As a friend of people running farms or working on farms, [I saw that] pretty much all the vegetables were covered, animal products, dairy ... The Valley had everything but year-round mushrooms and I wasn’t quite prepared for the demand I would find,” says Julia.

In Mycoterra’s first year, she maintained a full-time job while taking on the risk of starting her own business. She got into the Williamsburg farmers’ market with the help of a friend; at that time she only sold oyster mushrooms, merely a few pounds a week. River Valley Market in Northampton started selling Julia’s mushrooms and to this day she still works with them.

Last year she finally decided that it was time to focus on Mycoterra full time. Currently, Mycoterra sells at six markets in the summer as well as six winter markets. Julia’s mushrooms are served in restaurants in the Valley as well as restaurants in the Boston area. In addition, Julia runs a mushroom CSA so, like many farms in the Pioneer Valley, she makes it easy for people to get their pickups from whichever farmers’ market is most convenient from where they live. She does this in the spring, summer, and winter.

To support this growing demand, the Mycoterra farm has grown from one small room to multiple heated greenhouses, complete with radiant-heat flooring. Julie describes the growth this way: “I cut through the walls and started using this room. Within two months I outgrew this room and eventually everything started spilling out.” She jokingly adds, “I’m inhaling these spores and they’re getting in my brain and driving me. I sometimes I feel like I’m not running the mushroom farm, but it’s running me. It’s my life.”



When walking through Mycoterra Farm, one can easily understand what Julia means. There are hundreds of spawn bags lined up in rows on racks with varieties of stunning mushrooms including shiitake, lion’s mane, oyster and enokitake. The mushrooms all start out looking like bags of sawdust. As they fruit, the mushrooms evolve from sawdust to small knobs (what Julia calls the “popcorn” stage) to mature, full grown mushrooms.

Even with a background in chemistry and environmental science, Julia says her intuition plays a big role in her success.

“There is always more to figure out. There’s the big learning curve on the intuition. When I’ve really been trying really hard, being really attentive, it’s like they’re not growing for me. When I back off and give them more room, they explode and things are smoother.”

Julia appreciates this little niche of mushroom farming and feels a sense of responsibility in her work. It’s important to her that Mycoterra Farm leaves the planet better than they found it. She does this by using agricultural and forestry byproducts, using natural methods of production to accelerate decomposition, and helping build soil and encourage cycling of nutrients, something critical and beneficial for a healthy ecosystem.

It’s clear that a lot of work has been put into her farm, a true labor of love, and Julia recognizes that hard work pays off, and clearly thanks those who have helped her along the way.

“I think it’s paid off over time. I felt shut out at first, then I got my respect and that struggle has gone away.” Down the road, Julia would love to build more. With the direction Mycoterra is going, there is no doubt of that happening.


Mycoterra mushrooms can be found at these farmers’ markets: Amherst, Egleston (Jamaica Plain), Farmers’ Market at Forest Park (Springfield), Florence, Northampton (Saturday and occasionally Tuesday), and Roslindale. River Valley Market carries Mycoterra mushrooms year-round.


Leslie Lynn Lucio has enjoyed cooking and baking since she was a small child, as well as being an involved member of the local community. She can found running Beets & Barley Catering ( and at She can be reached at

Recipe for Mushroom and Lentil Salad

Recipe for Shiitake Ginger Glaze

In Season: Values, Dedication Flourish at Taproot Commons Farm

By Leslie Lynn Lucio | Photographs by Leslie Lynn Lucio and Dominic Perri

High in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts there is a raw-milk dairy farm in the small town of Cummington. Taproot Commons Farm was established by Sarah Fournier-Scanlon, then 23 years old, and her father. Though they choose to live differently in many ways, they share many of the same values, and so it made sense to farm together rather than apart.

Sarah didn’t grow up in Cummington, but spent time on the same land as a child. Her father, who is a pastor, used to spend time with the family on the same very spot when the land belonged to the United Church of Christ.

While walking around the farm, you can’t help but notice the serene beauty and peaceful sounds that embrace it. As Sarah herself says, “I came to this farm all the time as a kid; it’s one of those weird full circle things. I used to come to these wetlands and think how crazy would it be to live in a place this beautiful ... and here we are!”

Sharing this space with others, including her father, has felt good to her, as she believes in intergenerational living, and has intentionally chosen to live this way. At the age of 20, Sarah suffered the painful loss of her mother. Sarah and her father were determined to make the most meaningful use of life insurance funds her mother left them. Though people told Sarah to use the money to finish college, she and her father chose to purchase the land that is now Taproot Commons Farm.

“It was all our money, people thought it was stupid because I had to hustle and I couldn’t just let things float” said Sarah. It’s clear when speaking with Sarah, that her heart belongs to this special place. “I wanted to do this and learn from the land, I wanted to give back to the community.”

Visitors can immediately see how much appreciation is given back to the land. The farm encompasses 130 acres, but it’s mostly wetlands and woodlands. After establishing the farm, the first thing Sarah and her father did was put the land under a conservation restriction, so it would always be protected. Part of this includes a public access waterfall trail and trout fishing near the wetlands.

It’s clear that Sarah is committed to her community and the farm.


“I am kind of thrown by how specialized everything is in our society today and I really wanted to learn how to farm in a way that didn’t hurt the planet. I wanted to learn about all these things, but I couldn’t really find another way to do it. It just seemed the best way was to get into it and just figure it out.”

Sarah began working in her late teens, when she became passionate about dairying. Sarah has done thousands of milkings: She keeps Swiss and Jersey cows for their protein- and butterfat-rich milk.


“We calve all year round because we have to keep the milk flow steady. We’re not a seasonal dairy because I really believe in giving my community good milk all year round. Winters are really hard because we do the exact same thing that we do in the summer, but it takes 18,000 times as long!” She treats her animals well, even taking them on long walks with the help of others.

Sarah is excited for the future growth of Taproot Commons Farm. Plans are underway for a small folk school that will offer affordable classes on traditional farming and foodways.

“The folk school is where my heart is. I’ve wanted this for forever and just really want people to feel empowered, to think differently about what they want to be doing with their time, and to free people up.” In addition to the school, Sarah is restoring a barn on the farm as a home for community gatherings and celebrations.

For six weeks of the year, Sarah and a few others plan on hosting weddings back to back, each weekend. As Sarah says, “If you look at when you can have a true local-foods wedding in our area, it’s August through September. We’ll facelift the barn for those weeks and make it really pretty and just host a wedding every weekend!”

It’s easy to see the dedication that is being put into Taproot Commons Farm, either as a CSA member or farm stand visitor. Sarah Fournier-Scanlon knows she was given an opportunity and wants to give back as much as she can.

Walking around this piece of land and seeing what is being built for the community, there is no doubt this is an exceptional place. As Sarah says, “I want people to be able to think about livelihoods connected to the land, which builds community and serves community and to look at this tricky time as opportunity. It’s an exciting time ... it’s unprecedented, there’s nothing to lose anymore.”

Taproot Commons Farm

11 Porter Hill Rd., Cummington ◆ 413-634-5452

Leslie Lynn Lucio has enjoyed cooking and baking since she was a small child, as well as being an involved member of the local community. She can found running Beets & Barley Catering ( and at She can be reached at