Since starting Sharondale Mushroom Farm in central Virginia in 2004, I have come to appreciate more deeply the ancient relationship fungi have with our world and our culture. That is why I like to think of the farm as a fungus farm. I grow mushrooms – the fruit of Kingdom Fungi, but also work to understand fungi of all kinds and help hobby growers and small farmers develop the edge that supports diversity and resilience in their gardens, farms, and communities.
At Sharondale Farm, cultivating mushrooms happens at the intersection of science and art. The farm culture bank holds over 100 strains of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. From these, a few wild strains have been developed into productive food and medicine crops, and several have shown potential for bioremediation of diesel oil and hydraulic fluid, two common pollutants on small farms.
While growing mushrooms is a good business, approaching fungi from a broader perspective helps push the edge of knowledge about what is possible for our future as a species. Fungal allies co-create resilience in agriculture by improving the health of soil and crops and animals, in our communities by providing healthy food and jobs, and fungi can help heal the planet by remediating pollutants and supporting human designed ecosystems.
Sharondale Mushroom Farm is certified organic for mushrooms, mushroom spawn, and our mushroom compost. The farm is also a USDA- GAPS certified facility, and we hope to soon be a United Plant Savers plant and mushroom sanctuary.
Mark Jones, Sharondale CEO (Cohabiting Ecological Organism) was introduced to fresh, home-grown produce as many of us were–in the garden with his grandmother. He became fascinated with fungi during a college mycology class and then accepted a graduate research assignment studying a fungal wilt of Tabasco pepper. Following a M.S. degree in Plant Health from LSU, Mark learned and practiced the craft of carpentry and grew a construction business. His hobbies building gardens, working with kids and disabled adults in horticultural therapy , and practicing permaculture led him back to agriculture and growing mushrooms.
After designing and building outdoor living spaces and encouraging people to grow food in Portland, Oregon, Mark moved to his family’s homestead Sharondale in the summer of 2004 to continue developing perennial polycultures that integrate fungi and mushrooms with fruit, flowers, and fiber plants. His current work includes learning and teaching about: low-input mushroom growing for small farm diversification; fungi that contribute to agroforestry and natural resource management plans; intercropping mushrooms in the food forest for production of food, medicine, and soil fertility; and collecting local strains of mushrooms that have potential as food, medicine, and earth healers.
Bert Richards grew up in rural Northern Virginia and graduated from the University of Virginia in 2010. After two years of working at an organic vegetable farm, Bert earned an M.S. in Food Systems from the University of Vermont. Upon completing his studies, Bert returned to Virginia to pursue hands-on farming opportunities. Bert joined Sharondale Mushroom Farm in 2015 and has enjoyed learning about mushroom biology and farming.
Aaron Kennedy grew up in Cismont, Virginia and holds a degree in Business Administration from Fairmont State University. He is a key member in managing our mushroom growing operation and provides development assistance to our many mushroom projects.