Mushroom co-op idea could pay off

  • Mar. 1, 2006 6:00 a.m.

There’s a new technology which could help local mushroom pickers get higher and more stable prices for their product, and Lynda Dixon wants to bring it to the islands, Alex Rinfret writes.
The new technology is a process called vacuum microwave dehydration, and Ms Dixon says food dried this way turns out plump, delicious, easily reconstituted, and more nutritious than air dried food.
She came across the technology last year, while researching ways to get more local control over the chanterelle mushroom market.
Her family is one of many on the islands which makes some income every fall picking wild chanterelle mushrooms. Her interest in the market was piqued a couple of years ago when the amount paid to pickers dropped to just $1 per pound, for reasons beyond the control of anyone here.
After writing some letters proposing a feasibility study on a local market, she found an enthusiastic partner in Haida Gwaii Community Futures, which helped her get a grant from the federal government for the project.
The study, completed in June 2005, concluded that trying to buy and sell fresh mushrooms from Haida Gwaii would be just about impossible for several reasons – including transportation hurdles, the perishability of the delicate mushrooms and the already stiff competition between big buyers.
She then looked at the possibility of drying the chanterelles here and selling the dried product. But air dried mushrooms “are kind of chewy and not very delicious,” Ms Dixon said. “Chefs aren’t crazy about them but use them if necessary.”
She was just about to conclude that local processing isn’t feasible, when she heard about a new technology being researched by a Canadian company connected to UBC. EnWave Corporation uses a process called vacuum microwave dehydration to dry foods at lower temperatures and more quickly than air drying, and the company sent Ms Dixon’s team some of their dried mushrooms.
“It turns out it’s absolutely amazing,” Ms Dixon said. “They reconstitute perfectly… They’re the next best thing to fresh, maybe even better than fresh because they’re stable.”
Ms Dixon’s group – the Haida Gwaii Local Foods Processing Cooperative – has prepared a business plan and has found that buying wild chanterelles from local pickers, drying them with the new technology, and marketing the unique product would be very feasible.
She’s now looking for islanders to join the processing cooperative, as a way for locals to have more control over the mushroom industry.
The co-op could pay higher prices to pickers, and the mushroom processing and marketing will create more jobs here, she said. Eventually, she envisions it tying into other food processing besides mushrooms.
The processing co-op is looking for $450,000 to start up, Ms Dixon said, but it would become a completely self-sustaining business once it gets going. Main expenses are the vacuum drying unit at about $125,000. The co-op will also need to build a cooler, rent warehouse space, pay pickers for their mushrooms and market its new product.
They’ve already secured $100,000 from the Coast Sustainability Trust and $50,000 from a provincial grant, and Ms Dixon said other funding applications are looking positive.
If you’re interested in joining the co-op or finding out more about the project, Ms Dixon will be holding information sessions in communities later this month. Potential members include not just mushroom pickers, but also islanders interested in sustainable use issues and people who are involved in the food industry.
“We are definitely looking for members,” she said. “We’re hoping that there’s going to be people out there who join as a supportive measure for progressive economic development on the islands.”

Just Posted

Northern B.C.’s Ridley coal terminal sold, Canada divests, First Nations to own portion

Ten per cent of shares transferred to the Lax Kw’alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation

Haida artist Derek Edenshaw helps Rupert spruce up city

A giant kraken, painted by local artists under Edenshaw’s tutelage, is now on display

Haida Gwaii teacher denied paid bereavement travel leave

Arbitrator sides with B.C. Teachers Federation in dispute over funeral trip

Skeena mainstem closed to recreational sockeye

Escapements expected to be below 800,000 threshold

Rainbow Yarnbombing takes over

Haida Gwaii Knitting Group surprise the islands

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Too much time on social media can hurt teens’ mental health: study

Researchers conducted a four-year survey of more than 3,800 adolescents between Grades 7 and 11

Advocates want charges in horse deaths during Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races

Chuckwagon races are a nightly spectacle during the Stampede, a 10-day annual celebration of western life

ICBC insurance renewals get more complicated this year

Crash history, driver risk prompt more reporting requirements

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Most Read