Hamakua Heritage Mushrooms Farm: Janice and Bob Stanger
Thirteen years ago, Bob and Janice Stanga bought property in the Laupahoehoe area of Hawai'i Island with the idea of creating a niche food for island chefs raising either mushrooms or edible snails. Mushrooms won and The Hamakua Heritage Mushroom Farm became a reality.
The enterprise started small and eventually grew to fill a 16,000 square-foot production building that houses their own sterile tissue culture laboratory, incubation rooms and six indoor growing rooms. The facility is equipped with automated specialty mushroom cultivation equipment and climate control installations, and is where they produce a variety of mushroom species of exceptional quality.
Having their own laboratory they are able to develop their own spawn, which allows them complete control over the quality of their products. Although they currently harvest approximately 5,500 pounds of mushrooms each week, they have the capacity to harvest 7,000 pounds.
Recently an 'indoor courtyard' and small 'store' were built within the confines of the main building. In addition, a Chef's House designed by Janice was built on the farm grounds complete with bedrooms, state of the art kitchen, and open air dining lanais where local chefs can come to get away for a few days. Individuals or groups can also plan food and wine events, weddings, bridal showers, dinners and any other culinary affairs.
Besides the mushroom growing plant and new Chef House, the 35 acre property has its own operating wood-grinding mill, sugar cane field, fruit orchards and a small herb garden.
Janice Stanga very graciously responded to our questions during our interview.
HHFN: What inspired you to go into this business and make this product?
JS: Bob was a helicopter pilot and I was working as an Interior Designer when we met in California. As we became acquainted while working on a house project we started talking about mushrooms grown by a friend of mine and from there to dreaming about living in Hawai'i and starting a business. We now live on property adjacent to the farm.
HHFN: Are your products certified organic?
JS: Our mushrooms were certified organic for many years, but we felt the new regulations made it a bad business decision to continue to be certified. We still grow organic mushrooms, but are no-longer certified. It became necessary to put the "organic certifiers name" on all packaging; when three "organic certifiers" went out of business the reprint costs were astronomical!
One of the stipulations our farm had to agree with, in order to be certified, included the certifier's right to confiscate any and all equipment, at any time, based on any comments made (such as one from a disgruntled employee) for instance.
To fight an accusation is extremely expensive, and quite frankly just not worth it. It is my opinion that organic certification became a money making business, more than a good-food practice for the consumer.
At Hamakua Heritage we use a growing process that allows us to produce our mushrooms without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones or chemicals. We use steam and air filtration to control the growing process and protect the natural resources available to us in Hawai'i. Using environmentally friendly techniques, we produce soils and compost that will help Hawaii create a sustainable future. Now you can be assured of a variety of beautiful mushrooms that taste great and are good for you and for Hawai'i too!
HHFN: Are your products made from locally grown or raised products?
JS: Our products are locally grown; we use the eucalyptus that grows here on the Big Island, and we cultivate our spawn in our laboratory at our facility. In addition we bring in ground corn cob, and wheat mill run.
After our mushrooms are harvested, our spent substrate is sold to the farmers around the island and donated to schools for garden/ agricultural projects.
HHFN: What products are available at this time?
JS: At this time, we are growing four species of mushrooms: the Japanese erengii, which we call "Alii;" a gray oyster; an Italian mushroom that is found under the pioppi tree in Italy, also known as the black poplar mushroom, that we call "Pioppini;" and our newest mushroom, the "Abalone."
HHFN: How do you merchandise your products?
JS: Currently our mushrooms can be purchased in Costco, KTA, Food Land, Sack & Save, Safeway, Times Supermarket, Wal-Mart, and Abundant Life. Today it is easy to find Hamakua Mushrooms in many restaurants and resorts.
HHFN: Are you thinking of expanding your product line?
JS: Our newest plans to expand our facility are in the area of tours, gift shop, and cooking events. We are looking forward to being a new up-and-coming destination on the Hamakua Coast that is both exciting and informative. Plans and logistics are being developed at this time, and should begin to launch sometime in May 2013.
HHFN: Are there any final comments you would like to make for our readers?
JS: Hamakua Heritage Farm Inc. is dedicated to producing the freshest and highest quality gourmet and medicinal mushrooms available in Hawai'i. Our team is comprised of detail oriented and motivated individuals who take special care to produce an exceptional product, using local resources and environmentally friendly techniques
For more information about products, upcoming tours and events, and for recipes using Hamakua Heritage mushrooms, see contact information below:
Hamakua Heritage Mushrooms Farm, Inc
Bob and Janice Stanga
36-221 Manowaiopae Homestead Road, Laupahoehoe Hawaii 96764
Website: hamakuamushrooms.com (coming soon). Currently, see http://fungaljungle.com
Sonia R. Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka'a. She is a regular contributor to Ke Ola Magazine; and has her own food & garden blog at Sonia Tastes Hawaii.