Premier Mushrooms: Mushroom Growers Focus on Sustainability

In photo: (left to right) Kevin Foley, Johanna Mitchell, John Ashbaugh
In photo: (left to right) Kevin Foley, Johanna Mitchell, John Ashbaugh

Premier Mushroom Inc. sustainability coordinator Kevin Foley spoke to the Colusa Rotary Club Tuesday on the environmental sustaining efforts being developed and maintained at the mushroom farm in Colusa.

Foley spoke at the invitation of Rotarian Johanna Mitchell, Wells Fargo Bank manager, Colusa Branch.

Premier Mushrooms has taken several steps to reduce the impact its growing and production processes have on the environment. The mushroom growing process itself is naturally a very closed-loop system and complements additional sustainability efforts. Inputs to the composting process are all recycled materials while the outputs are mushrooms, spent compost, and water. The mushrooms are sold and the ones unfit for production are recycled back into the composting process. Premier Mushrooms is also a zero waste-water facility and all residual water from the grow process is reused for composting, while spent compost finds its way back into the earth as a soil amendment. In addition, Premier Mushrooms only uses recyclable tills and boxes.

Premier Mushrooms has also been in the process of installing a high efficiency centrifugal chiller that is expected to produce significant savings over 2012. The company partnered with PG&E in order to analyze the true cooling load required for the mushrooms and then selected an appropriate chiller based on the findings. The preliminary analysis estimated savings of 2,000,000 kwh’s annually.

Foley explained that the farm’s process of addressing solid waste in 2012 resulted in diverting 87,000 pounds of waste that that previously found its way to landfills.

By conducting onsite waste audits, the company has been able to separate materials such as cardboard, plastics and product tills to be recycled.

Additionally, the compost generated at the farm is being marketed as certified organic compost to area orchards and other local growers.

Foley said that sustainability is focused on recycling, on energy savings and on community.

In 2012 Premier and Steelhead Lodge Bar & Grill co-sponsored the county’s first Coastal Clean Up event to help clean up Colusa’s Greenbelt running along the Sacramento River. The result from the 17 volunteers and Premier employees who joined the effort was to collect 61.7 pounds of trash and recyclables from local ecology. In 2012 Colusa County was one of 55 of the 58 California Counties participating.

Foley encouraged the Rotarians to become a part of the 2013 event which is scheduled for September 21, 2013. “We’d like to expand this event even more by incorporating boaters to help by cleaning along the shore where walking volunteers may not be able to reach,” he said. “We’d like to see this become an annual event that unites the community around a common goal.

Premier Mushrooms Inc. CEO John Ashbaugh also addressed the Rotarians to bring an update on the farms expansion project.

By October 2013 the expansion from 48 to 64 growing rooms will be completed. Ashbaugh estimated that production in the new rooms will begin by the first week of November. The added growing space will enable the farm to increase production from 11 million tons annually 14 million tons and increase the number of fulltime employees by 25 jobs. The farm is currently one of the largest private sector employers in the county and employs 180 workers. 

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Is the Owner, Publisher, Editor, and Reporter of the Williams Pioneer Review. Committed to publishing the news of our Community, Lloyd has been the owner of the Williams Pioneer Review since 2010. To contact Lloyd about this article or future articles, please email him at lloyd@colusacountynews.net