From Soil to City

Primordia Farm

Growing: All Natural, Organic
Location: Lenhartsville, PA

Primordia Farms is a family run farm based in Lenhartsville, PA. The barns were all built by owner Matt Sicher with the help of friends and family, using recycled material.

They recycle waste product (straw and sawdust) to grow food on and do not use any sprays on the mushrooms. Part of the reason we love Matt is his past experience as an environmental activist, which comes across in the sustainability of Primordia Farms.


INTERVIEW:

We were first introduced to Matt of Primordia Farm through our vegetable farmers, Taproot Farm. The two are neighbors and carpool their kids together to school. We love the integrity and quality of Taproot Farm so we knew anyone they referred us to would be trustworthy and a good fit for our family.

Matt is an incredibly intelligent and sweet person whose eyes light up every time you ask him about mushrooms. When he talks in his handmade barn, surrounded by mushrooms growing in sawdust substrates and his ideas and philosophies whirling around, you Know your eyes in the presence of a mastermind. Not only are the mushrooms he grows for Local roots NYC incredibly flavor packed and beautiful, they are grown by a man and his family who are deeply passionate about their work and constantly trying out ways to improve and perfect their craft.

Cook with Matt’s mushrooms through our farm share and try his favorite mushroom dish idea mentioned below.

1. How many varieties do you grow?
6-8

2. When did you start Primordia and why
Started building in 2011, first crops came in Fall of 2012.

3. What does Primordia mean?
It is the smallest phase of mushroom growth. Maximum potential energy. I also like that it is harkening to the word primordial. In that the fungi are some of the earliest lifeforms on the planet, and it is an intriguing thought and talking point. Fungal organisms were dominant on land far before plants and animals.

4. How long does it take for a crimini mushroom to grow from inoculation to harvest?
6 weeks

5. What is the process to grow a mushroom in a barn?
Lots of them!

Involving specific and correct moisture conditions, nutritional profile for grow substrate. Steam sterilization. Inoculation of cloned and isolated varieties, from Petri dish forward, in aseptic laboratory environment that we have built on premises, incubation at stable temperatures, carbon dioxide levels, and light levels, and then mushroom fruiting initiation in environmentally controlled grow rooms controlling for 6 different environmental parameters.

6. What is a trick you’ve learned that has helped either growing mushrooms in barns or harvesting them? Ex. a certain wood is great for growing a specific variety or growing these two varieties next to each other was a disaster because they killed each other
Details are important all down the line. From Petri dish composition (I have a 62 page list of petri recipes for different applications…), to details of grow substrate per variety, to carbon dioxide parts per million control in grow rooms, it all matters. 365 day a year attention.

7. Do your kids have a favorite mushroom?
Shiitake and maitake

8. What is one thing you wish people knew about either Primordia or growing mushrooms indoors?
It’s hard! And super damn interesting. I have pages of possible angles I can take the farm and business in in the future, with lots of details come lots of possibilities. We are establishing a fully equipped at home microbiology lab ultimately. So that is, you know, kinda neat.

9. What makes your mushrooms so flavorful?
We keep it fresh! (And the mushrooms are nice too)

10. How does your practice differ from conventional mushroom growing?
We’ve literally built everything. Cleared the trees, built our house, built the barns, invented and built much of the equipment. Been hard, but that level of intimate knowledge of every part of the process allows for far greater agility and latitude in how we run the farm, compared to giant commodities mushroom operations, where often the owners don’t actually know too much about the intimate details..except sales and all that. Often in big commodities operations its people with Mycology PhD running the lab. I’m self taught, so I make rudimentary mistakes at times, but learn fast and am not stuck in a conceptual box as to standard protocol beyond what I’ve invented!

11. What music do you guys listen to when working?
Yesterday: Archangelo Corelli, 2 hours, jimmy driftwood, 1 hour, an old Tool album (laterallis), 1 hour, Tipper album Forward Escape, 1 hour, and about 5 hours of khan academy stuff on genetics, interviews about CERN accelerator, debate panel on general AI, updates on status of observation of gravitational waves, debates on future of employment and food.
I spend way more time with lectures and debate panels than music most days.

12. What are some tips or things you do in the kitchen that help you cook when you have limited time?
Keep it simple! Mince, sautéed with butter, garlic, maybe simmer of white wine, let the mushrooms speak for themselves!

13. What is one organizational trick in the kitchen that you want to share with NYers with tiny kitchens?
Hmm, dunno, we’ve got some space. We have stuff hanging up too. That’s good. Think three dimensionally! Don’t just use the horizontal plane.