We’ve asked three different farmers during the long winter months, “What are your plans this winter?” The winter is a very different time for farmers, it’s a time for reflection, a rapid change of pace, and occasionally a chance to relax!
This month, we spoke to Patrick and Kelly of Daybreak Dreamfarm. The two met working for the Maine Conservation Corps, found their way to Pond Hill Farm for an internship a few years later and decided to cultivate their own dream and start a farm in 2014!
Nestled in their beautiful location in the Pleasant Valley of East Jordan, Patrick and Kelly grow a variety of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and chicken eggs. They offer a CSA share, attend 5 markets during the summer season, continue with Harbor Springs and Bellaire Farmers Market through December, and Boyne City Farmers Market year-round.
Throughout the winter months they operate two hoophouses to extend their growing season and grow mushrooms in their indoor setup. “Even in the darkest, coldest days of the year, we’re coming with fresh greens, storage vegetables, and mushrooms to the indoor markets,” says Kelly.
Patrick and Kelly are knowledgable and passionate about mushrooms! They started out growing mushrooms in the basement and then built a climate-controlled space in their pole barn and called it the “Mush-Room.” It meets the growing needs of oysters, shiitakes, and lion’s mane, the 3 primary types they are growing now.
With the operation in the barn, growing mushrooms year around is made easy. “We started growing mushrooms because we wanted to diversify a bit from our vegetable operation, and wanted to have something fresh to offer at the markets year-round in addition to our winter greens and storage vegetables,” explains Kelly. The only challenge is that mushrooms really benefit from fresh air circulation, and rotating between a heating and cooling system to keep the temperatures correct is a priority in the winter months.
Patrick and Kelly offer recommendations and creative approaches to prepare and enjoy mushrooms on their recipe blog and shared with us an easy go-to lion’s mane recipe that can be enjoyed with pasta or rice! They enjoy talking with customers about the best way to cook each individual mushroom, with each variety offering a slightly different, but delicious flavor. “I’ve never met a mushroom that wasn’t delicious when sautéed with a little garlic and onion,” says Kelly.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Cream Sauce
3 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. lion’s mane mushrooms, torn into small pieces
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 c dry white wine
2-3 c chicken or veggie stock
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 c heavy cream
1-2 tsp fresh chopped sage (for garnish)
1-2 tsp grated Parmesan (for garnish)
Melt 1 tbsp. butter in skillet, over medium heat. Add onions, sauté until translucent. Add lion’s mane mushrooms, sauté until they’ve given off most of their liquid and are slightly crispy. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Deglaze pan with wine, reduce until evaporated. Add 1 c stock to pan and simmer.
On the side, build a rue by melting 2 tbsp. butter, adding flour and stirring into a thick paste (add more flour if necessary). Add 1-2 c stock slowly, continuing to stir into the paste mixture, until it thickens into a sauce. Add heavy cream and stir.
Add cream mixture to mushroom skillet to finish the sauce. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve over pasta or rice garnished with chopped sage and grated Parmesan.
Beyond growing mushrooms, Patrick and Kelly stay busy in the winter months planning, growing, refining their operation, and find themselves removing a ton of snow from their hoophouses. Especially throughout the snow we had over the Holidays! “Snow removal can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking with all the big storms we’ve had,” said Kelly. Nonetheless, they find themselves taking a little time to relax and recover from the hectic season, enjoying the slowed pace, and shaping for the upcoming season.
What is most inspiring about the winter season?
“Winter is a very hopeful time of year. We get the chance to sit down and revisit the previous season, take a deep look into what worked well for us, and then start planning for the next year. We do a lot of behind-the-scenes work this time of year, and lay the groundwork for the summer to come so that we’re not trying to make critical decisions for our farm in the heat of it.”
What is your favorite winter mushroom dish?
“Our go-to mushroom dish is definitely Mushroom Risotto. It works well using any mushroom we grow (although we prefer the oysters)! Simply sautéed with garlic and onion and added to a slow-cooked rice in chicken or veggie stock. We alter the recipe based on the season; we’ll add fresh peas in the spring or spinach in the winter and top it with a parmesan or other nutty cheese for a delicious dish!”
What is your favorite winter crop?
Patrick loves oyster mushrooms, “perhaps because he spends the most time growing them,” says Kelly.
Kelly loves winter spinach, “Nothing is more exciting and delicious than homegrown winter spinach in February, and fortunately, the two go very well together!”
If you want to learn more about mushroom growing or are craving some this winter, Patrick and Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Daybreak Dreamfarm will be at the Boyne City Indoor Farmers Market through the winter, and will resume at Bellaire and Harbor Springs Farmers Markets this spring with a wealth of delicious vegetables and mushrooms!
Bailey Samp is the Local Food Coordinator and Events Manager for NW Michigan and the Owner of Lakeview Hill Farm. She is not as optimistic about the winter months and is escaping the snow with an extended Holiday in Central America. She can be contacted at email@example.com.