Mushroom man’ makes most of organic farming
Scott Tucker got into organic farming thinking it would be a breeze.
Two years later, he laughs at his naïveté.
“Just shoot me,” joked the 60-year-old who runs Bermyfresh Farms with Martin Hatfield. “There’s nothing easy about organic farming.”
It’s all done without pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified crops, while the plants are also grown without soil, using a hydroponics system, and the environment is strictly controlled.
Despite all the supervision, the plants often do whatever they want.
“Pea tendrils are probably my biggest aggravation,” Mr Tucker said.
At its best, a pot of pea tendrils looks like a head of curly green hair and is often used as garnish.
“Diva would be a good word for them,” he said. “Sometimes they are perfect, but other times they do strange things. By strange things, I mean they die, or they suddenly turn yellow, and I can’t sell them.”
Although the pea tendrils are among his biggest sellers and often bought by restaurants, it’s his shiitake and oyster mushrooms that are his pride and joy.
“I’m a mushroom man,” he said, “the wilder the better.”
In the beginning he struggled. He was growing them in 100 per cent humidity when they preferred 80 to 90 per cent.
“A slight change in their environment and they will react, and not necessarily in a good way,” he said.
“Before I got into this, I had no idea there was a season for mushrooms. It starts about now, when all the children go back to school and everyone is eating meals at home. Suddenly, everyone wants more mushrooms. There’s even an increase in demand in restaurants. We produce 300lbs of mushrooms, on average, per week.”
Ironically, Mr Tucker claims to have a “brown” thumb.
“I learnt organic farming through trial and error,” he said. “I did a lot of both. I read everything about hydroponics I could get my hands on. There has been a lot of research on it. A lot of our suppliers were good sources of information. They would help us troubleshoot. I also talked to other farmers about it. Farmers help farmers.
“If I tried to grow anything outdoors, I think it would die. Growing things this way suits the photographer in me. The set-up is very technical and highly controlled. We watch the plants carefully as they develop.”
He left photography partly because he was tired of schlepping equipment around.
“I don’t want to say photography is a young man’s game,” he said. “But it is.”
Bermyfresh operates out of a warehouse on Well Bottom Road, Southampton.
A year ago, the company started offering Farm Box, a weekly delivery of organic herbs and vegetables.
“We have about 40 clients,” Mr Tucker said. “We’ve had up to 60 and as little as 25. It doesn’t work so well for people who go away a lot. The box gets delivered every Saturday.”
Some people get a little anxious worrying about what to do with all the basil, or the micro greens, so Bermyfresh provides a pamphlet with recipe suggestions, and also maintains a Facebook page.
Mr Tucker said he loves the interaction with clients.
“When things are sold in grocery stores or restaurants we don’t get any direct feedback,” he said. “This is the fun part. When we deliver the boxes, we get to go right into people’s houses and talk to our customers. We get to interact a lot more.”
His customers are foodies, health nuts and people who just want to support organic farming.
Genovese basil, broccoli/kale microgreens, mushrooms, sunflower shoots and baby greens are typical box offerings.
Clients are sometimes a little picky — some people don’t want mushrooms, others want extra basil.
“We were putting pesto sauce in all the boxes,” said Mr Tucker. “Then suddenly customers were saying they were tired of that. So we started putting in hummus instead.
“The Bermuda Smokehouse makes it for us, and we add the cilantro.”
Goat cheese is often added to the box, courtesy of his brother James, who runs Tucker’s Farm.
“I don’t know how we both ended up in this industry,” Mr Tucker said. “We don’t come from a farming background, it just turned out that way coincidentally.”
Mr Tucker is a big believer in the health benefits of organic vegetables.
“Every morning, I start with a smoothie made from our products and I don’t have any chronic illnesses like high blood pressure,” he said.
“Before I started Bermyfresh, my partner Tina Stevenson was struggling with rheumatoid arthritis. She started with the broccoli/kale microgreens and it’s now a lot better. I like to say a farm box is better than a pill box.”
Boxes start at $232.
• Contact Bermyfresh on Facebook, firstname.lastname@example.org or 236-3400.
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