Couple Leaves City Life Behind to Start Mushroom Farm in Taupō

Benson Thomas and Hattie MacLennan left city life to start Forage Mushroom Co. in Taupō, producing fresh, locally grown mushrooms for the community. They sell their products at markets, online, and to restaurants, despite facing challenges from cheaper imported mushrooms.

Mazhar Abbas
Updated On
New Update
Couple Leaves City Life Behind to Start Mushroom Farm in Taupō

Couple Leaves City Life Behind to Start Mushroom Farm in Taupō

Benson Thomas and Hattie MacLennan, a young couple from Auckland, New Zealand, have left their city life behind to pursue a new venture in the rural town of Taupō. In January 2023, they transformed four hectares of land into a mushroom farm, establishing Forage Mushroom Co. The couple's decision to pursue their passion for sustainable food production and bring fresh, locally grown mushrooms to the Taupō community marks a significant shift in their lives.

Forage Mushroom Co. specializes in producing several varieties of oyster mushrooms, including Italian, Phoenix (native to New Zealand), and Pink. The couple sells their products at local farmers' markets, online, and to restaurants in the area, such as Taupō's fine dining establishment Embra. Thomas, who has a background in agricultural and applied science, developed an interest in mycology, the study of fungi, during the pandemic, which sparked the idea for the business.

The couple's transition to rural living was made possible by MacLennan's ability to work remotely in her HR role. They utilized Thomas' family's earthworks company to clear the paddocks and establish their mushroom farm headquarters, a 600 square meter warehouse equipped with climate-controlled equipment. In addition to growing and selling fresh mushrooms, Forage Mushroom Co. offers mushroom grow kits online, allowing customers to grow their own oyster mushrooms in just six days.

Starting abusiness from scratchhas not been without its challenges. Thomas has expressed a desire for more regulation in the industry, as they have struggled to compete with cheaper, imported mushrooms from China. Earlier this year, he made the difficult decision to pull 300 kgs of their produce from Asian food stores in Auckland because of undercutting. Despite these challenges, the couple remains dedicated to providing high-quality, locally sourced mushrooms to their customers.

The positive feedback received about their produce has led MacLennan and Thomas to collaborate with chefs in developing a new food product to sell to supermarkets. They are excited about the potential of their oyster mushrooms, which can withstand high cooking temperatures without losing their volume. MacLennan enthusiastically states, "We whack them on your plate, Bob's your uncle."

Forage Mushroom Co.'s journey from city life to rural mushroom farming demonstrates the couple's passion for sustainable food production and their determination to succeed despite the challenges they face. As they continue to grow their business and innovate with new products, Benson Thomas and Hattie MacLennan are making a significant contribution to the local food scene in Taupō and beyond, one mushroom at a time.

Key Takeaways

  • Benson Thomas and Hattie MacLennan left city life to start a mushroom farm in Taupō, NZ.
  • Forage Mushroom Co. produces oyster mushrooms, selling to local markets, online, and restaurants.
  • The couple's rural move was possible due to MacLennan's remote HR work and Thomas' family's earthworks company.
  • They face challenges from cheaper imported mushrooms, but remain committed to high-quality, local produce.
  • The couple is developing new products, including mushroom grow kits and a supermarket-bound food item.