By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jan 27, 2016 at 11:03 AM

On New Year’s Eve, mushroom forager Mike Jozwik posted the following celebratory sentiments to his Facebook page:

"This year was big, huge in fact. Passion brought huge investments from total strangers, local community, and family alike...all looking to see a dream come to fruition. An unwavering wife, child, and family that motivate me to grow as a person and a business (and grow smart). Chefs and colleagues that transformed our product into works of art.

Chefs becoming genuine friends, not clients. Farmers who didn't have a venue for their amazing product reaching out to us because they knew we represented the best of the best. Foraging new and uncharted territory, searching for the most amazing product nature provides, season by season.

Although big, all I can feel is that this city, this state, these chefs and this company just had its amuse-bouche in 2015... and we will now feast in 2016."

We introduced you to Jozwik, also known as "Mushroom Mike," this past July. At the time, he had recently moved his operations into a Walker’s Point warehouse where he had started construction on a series of rooms which would be used for dry storage and mushroom cultivation.

Six months later, having secured close to $100,000 from investors through Fund Milwaukee, Jozwik has completed the first phase of development of his warehouse space to include a lab, incubation room, dry storage and a brand new growing facility for cultivated mushrooms.

"We spent five years researching and visiting growing facilities all over the country," he says. "And we’ve adopted a lot of the cultivation practices that they use in Southeast Asia. They’re so efficient in both their practices and their methods of sterilization."

The process

A damp fruiting substrate is loaded into "spawn bags" which are sterilized to prevent any microorganisms that could compete with the mushrooms' growth.

From there, rye grains infused with mycelium are are added to the compost/mushroom food mix. Then, they're placed into a climate controlled environment in the incubation room. 

As time goes on, the mycelium spreads, consuming the food inside of the bags.

When the mushrooms show signs that they are ready, they are moved into a grow room, where they are exposed to the air and allowed to pin and fruit.   

The mushrooms

Currently, Jozwik is growing 10 types of mushrooms including multiple species of oyster mushrooms, lion’s mane, king trumpets and hen of the woods. And he’s doing so with an eye for efficiency in production.

"There are so many products that chefs in Wisconsin haven’t really been able to obtain affordably," he says. "And there’s a growing demand for more interesting cultivated mushrooms. We’re aiming to change that. The systems we’re putting into place allow us to create cost efficiencies that we can pass along to our customers."

Those customers currently include a large number of chefs from across the city including Jonathan Manyo of Morel, Evan Greenhalgh from Easy Tyger, AJ Dixon of Lazy Susan and countless others. But Jozwik says he’ll also be selling direct to consumers – through Bumstead Provisions, which is expected to open later in spring, as well as through area farmers markets beginning this summer.

"It’s amazing how the interest has grown in what we’re doing," Jozwik notes. "Guys like Steven Rinella and Hank Shaw, they grew out of the hunting community. And from there, people have begun to appreciate more and more the foods they’ve grown, killed or harvested themselves."

Jozwik says the move to cultivating his own mushrooms has been both exhausting and rewarding.

"I’ve always had an appetite for growing things," he says. "I’ve cultivated mushrooms myself outside. And I’ve done some things indoors as a hobbyist. But this, it’s like every bag is your baby when you open it. You’re so used to searching so hard for these things in nature. You’re doing it yourself. And there’s this humble satisfaction in being a farmer, finally."

What's ahead?

Moving forward, Jozwik says he’ll be adding an area designed for mushroom and ramp processing, along with expansion of grow rooms to include climate controlled rooms to accommodate more exotic mushroom species.

In the meantime, Jozwik says, it’s all about working hard and getting the word out.

"We’re just excited man," he says. "and now that we’re up and running, we’ll be doing a lot more outreach to new chefs to really get our product into more peoples’ hands." 

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.