Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms
Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms, A Medicinal Boost in a Flourishing Industry
There are two m’s that make up Karen and Brian Wiseman’s daily operations: mushrooms and medicine. Their business, Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms, is a small farm located in the heart of Vermont that grows mushrooms produced into health-based products. From boosting one’s immune system to assisting in cognitive function, their products are carefully crafted with the consumer in mind. With Brian’s focus in agriculture and Karen’s long history in the pharmaceutical field, their combined backgrounds led them to the selling of these value-added products.
The couple’s journey to this point started with a leap of faith. As a stay-at-home father, Brian began pursuing a new passion of growing mushrooms on their land. At that same time, Karen left her job within the pharmaceutical industry to assist in their plan of growing mushrooms for a profit. The pair cashed out their retirement savings to begin their business while working with commercial lenders to grow on a larger plot of land and start a commercial kitchen to produce their products. This propelled the start of Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms and the switch to production for the farm.
“With both of our backgrounds, we are able to turn our fresh mushrooms into medicinal mushrooms, called double extract tinctures,” Karen stated. These products are liquid-based and are created by removing the medicinal compounds of the mushrooms with water and alcohol. With the resulting product, a customer can choose two routes of consumption: adding the tincture into their beverage of choice or dropping it directly into their mouths. Because of these options, there is both flexibility and convenience that adds to the health benefits.
Another Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms product available for customers to purchase is mushroom-based powders. Like the liquid tinctures, this fibrous blend made from the entire mushroom can be consumed in a variety of ways. Whether mixed in a smoothie or in a meal, Karen expressed that these options appeal to the many different lifestyles of their consumers.
Depending on the mushroom utilized within these products, there is a health-related perk that goes along with it. The farm harvests four types of mushrooms with varying benefits. The lion’s mane mushroom, which happens to be the most popular, works to promote memory and brain function. Cordyceps are used to boost one’s energy as increased lung function facilitates oxygen to one’s cells. Furthermore, blood sugar regulation is the main benefit of their shiitake mushrooms.
The growing of medicinal mushrooms is not new to the agricultural field. In fact, this is an industry in which many American farmers are finding success. “It is a booming area, and we realized that probably about five years ago,” Karen admitted.
To manage this flourishing industry and keep up with the growing, Brian cultivates their mushrooms in an indoor environment. This makes their business a year-round endeavor while standing out from other growers in the state who primarily grow outdoors. Being that their buildings require frequent upkeep and temperature regulation, Karen noted their business leans into the manufacturing side of agriculture as well.
Although Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms also uses wild harvested mushrooms from the abundant Vermont forests for their products, their focus on growing indoors and their 365-day growing season has allowed them to avoid some of the challenges of seasonality and focus on their medicinal offerings. Fresh mushrooms are not shelf stable, and with the varied fruiting schedules, it becomes difficult to ensure there is enough inventory. Therefore, the Wisemans enjoy their medicinal focus as it gives them more flexibility with their growing.
When they first decided to create these value-added products, the Wisemans looked to their farmer’s market table to test out the interest of their customers. The feedback was highly positive, so they knew this was the path they wanted to take for their farm. To enhance their value-added product line, they looked to the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG).
Being that the business and marketing side of the industry was new to Brian and Karen, the grant funds assisted them in hiring a part-time social media and sales professional to guide them in the promotion of their products. Their product promotion was also supported by their attendance at regional trade shows where they could display the labels and jars funded by the grant. As Karen explained, this type of networking is huge for their business as “people want to know who is making their medicine.”
With the new labor they received as well as the sales boost from these changes, the grant has benefitted them even with the impact of COVID-19. “The Value-Added Producer Grant was like a lifeline because it helped us keep all of our costs a little bit lower than they would have otherwise," Karen revealed.
These low costs allow them to continue providing their medicinal offerings to their in-person and online customers. Most of their current business model is catered to wholesale customers who connected with Karen at farmer’s markets and health conferences, such as holistic health professionals and wellness co-ops. However, approximately 30-35 percent of the business is online or direct at farmer’s markets, which is an area the Wisemans hope to grow in the future.
Recently, Karen has been certified as a clinical herbalist. This certification is opening the doors of possibilities for this business as they are looking to diversify their offerings. From the addition of turkey tail and reishi mushrooms to looking to expand their products to include herbs, this small business is ready for what the next few years has to offer. To combat the uncertain growing seasons of mushrooms, Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms is also hoping to begin a limited edition product line that Karen said would revolve around “what mother nature gives us.”
While reflecting on the VAPG experience, Karen indicated that looking out to knowledgeable people for assistance and attending USDA workshops is beneficial in aiding a smooth application process. Even though it may seem daunting at first, the VAPG process is doable for those who are interested. She stated that with the business-related benefits they found through this financial assistance, the work that went into the application was well worth it.