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Colorado’s arid climate seems like an unlikely place to grow exotic, humidity-loving mushrooms. And yet Jim and Toni Hammond, the husband-and-wife team behind Hazel Dell Mushrooms in Fort Collins, have become the primary mushroom suppliers for more than 50 Front Range restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets.
Thirty-one years ago, the duo created their first mushroom farm on the side of Jim’s garage in Watsonville, California. In 1993, they brought the business to Colorado to be closer to family. Since then, the Hammonds have figured out how to fool the fungi: They sterilize and steam sawdust to create a block of nutrients that spores latch onto as they would dead trees in a wetter climate. Then the mushrooms are grown in a darkened, humidity-controlled room.
The Hammonds’ experimentation—and determination—has paid off. When Whole Foods opened its first market in Boulder, Jim walked in with a box of samples and the produce manager was so impressed he bought them all. “People in Colorado are always trying to do something unique with their food and lifestyle,” Jim says, “so we fit in well.” 3925 E. Carpenter Road, Fort Collins, 970-226-0978, hazeldellmushrooms.com