Local Specialty Mushroom Growers Find Their Niche

The Fungus Among Us

In small spaces throughout the Greater Sacramento area, enormous volumes of mushrooms grow. 

“We grow 150 to 200 pounds a week out of a pretty small space,” says Brendan Linnane, owner of Foggy Dew Fungi in Newcastle. His “fruiting room” is an 8-by-10-foot, environmentally controlled shed lined with racks of maturing mushrooms.

Dillon and Emily Yialouris started their Cool Mushroom Farm in a corner of their garage (in Cool, Calif., of course). They grow lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms, both relatively fragile fungi that are best sourced locally.

“Lion’s mane is crazy looking, like coral or cauliflower,” Dillon says. “It grows in big puffballs with shaggy manes. People started growing it for brain benefits and use it in dehydrated form, mix it in smoothies. But it has this wonderful texture and flavor. Fresh, it’s a great seafood alternative.”

Mushrooms love oak, and Foggy Dew’s Linnane has shiitakes growing outdoors on shady logs.

“They just fascinate me,” he says. “They’re quite a struggle to get started, but they’re beautiful and taste amazing.”

Otherwise, most of Linnane’s mushrooms grow indoors with air conditioning. He sells them at two farmers’ markets, online, and to local restaurants and grocery stores. (Prices start at $10 a half pound.)

Father and son team Paul and Brendan Linnane, owner-operators of Foggy Dew Fungi, show off their bounty at the farmers’ market in Auburn. Photo by Lou Manna
Father and son team Paul and Brendan Linnane, owner-operators of Foggy Dew Fungi, show off their bounty at the farmers’ market in Auburn. Photo by Lou Manna

“I grow oysters of all varieties — blue, white, pink, Phoenix, king trumpets, black pearl — plus lion’s mane, chestnut, and reishi,” he says. “Reishi, or turkey tails, are becoming very popular because of their potent medicinal properties. It makes good extracts and tinctures.”


Medicinally, researchers have confirmed what Asian tradition has dictated for millennia: Mushrooms are natural pharmaceuticals. Various studies have linked mushrooms to reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, lowered blood sugar, and boosts to immunity and brain health. Mushrooms are the only non-animal source of vitamin D. Packed with B vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids, mushrooms also can be a better protein source than beans. Of course, they’re delicious, too.

Linnane started growing mushrooms as a hobby while working as a horticulturist at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. To get more mushroom room, he moved back home in 2017 and built grow sheds on his father’s Newcastle property. While the coast provides an ideal mushroom climate, inland weather is more challenging.

“Hot summer, cold winter … mushrooms like it more temperate,” Linnane explains. “So we created environmentally controlled spaces for them.”

The Yialourises launched Cool Mushroom Farm at the height of the pandemic in summer 2020. They had lived in Napa, where Dillon worked at a water treatment plant, but he dreamed of being a fungi farmer. After much research, the couple moved to Cool, where they found “the perfect setup for a mushroom farm,” Dillon says.

Dillon, Emily, and Milo Yialouris in their mushroom fruiting room. Photo by Lou Manna
Dillon, Emily, and Milo Yialouris in their mushroom fruiting room. Photo by Lou Manna

Emily, a biology teacher at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, used her science background to help their fungiculture business grow. 

“We had six months of setup and building everything,” she says. “On July 4, 2020, our first mushrooms were ready. We set up a roadside stand, advertised on Facebook, and sold out.”

Now, Cool Mushroom Farm sells its mushrooms at the Historic Folsom Farmers Market, online, and directly to restaurants. 

Inside their garage, an insulated mini room allows the mushrooms to live in year-round comfort: 60 to 75 degrees.

“Lower [heat] is better,” Dillon says. “Higher can breed bad bacteria.” 

Humidity is a concern, too; mushrooms like it moist (85 percent while first growing). A humidifier keeps their room just right. And a timer turns on the lights, 18 hours a day. 

“Light helps with color; the blue [mushroom color] gets more blue,” he explains.

Because mushrooms are considered a sustainable crop, USDA programs encourage small farmers to grow specialty mushrooms, especially as a secondary crop on tree farms. Specialty mushrooms include more than 1,000 edible species but make up only 1 percent of total sales. Common white (button) and brown (cremini) mushrooms are both the same species.

Fruiting blocks await inoculation with mushroom cultures at the Yialourises’ Cool Mushroom Farm. Photo by Lou Manna

Mushrooms don’t need trees or soil. They grow in sawdust or other substrates. They start as spores in agar in a petri dish before progressing to blocks of hardwood pellets. (Mushrooms don’t like soft woods.) The Yialourises prefer soy hull pellets, a byproduct of soybeans. A new crop of oysters can mature in only three months.

Emily creates recipes to go with their mushrooms. 

“I love cooking with the king blue oysters. They’re really savory with a rich, beefy flavor,” she says.

Foggy Dew supplies recipes along with its mushrooms.

“Our most popular is the lion’s mane crab-less crab cakes,” Linnane says. “[The mushroom] shreds just like crab meat.”

As a side business, Foggy Dew Fungi also started marketing its own at-home grow kits.

“They’re insanely popular,” says Linnane, who sells 40 kits a week at farmers’ markets ($20 – $30 online).

“I just love growing mushrooms,” Linnane adds. “I love feeding people and building community. So much is happening in the mushroom world right now. I love to get people excited about mushrooms.”