Friends of Fungus: Mountain Valley Mushrooms Update

4 10 2011

On behalf of Scotty Button and myself, Tye Tilt, and the handful of shiitakes still standing, thank you so much for your support and words of encouragement after the barn fire that destroyed the production building on the Mountain Valley Mushroom farm west of Driggs. Like farmers have for centuries, Scotty and I are picking up the pieces and moving forward. Many of you have asked what happened and how you can help… here’s the scoop:

On August 3rd I was awoken at 5:00 am by the shrill ring of the phone I assumed could only be my mother. The fire department notified me my barn was aflame. When I looked out the window it was fully engulfed. I assured them no one was inside. The fire trucks arrived but all they could do was save the propane tanks (which were full of $1000 of propane, so that was a positive). The fire started in the steamer box, where we cook the substrate used to grow the mushrooms.

There are four stages in growing mushrooms—making spawn or ”seed” in the lab, sterilization/inoculation, incubation, and growing. The barn fire destroyed the second stage—sterilization/inoculation.  That’s where we fill plastic bags the size of a car battery with sawdust and chips then put them in a metal “steamer box” to heat them at 200 degrees for 12-15 hours.  The mushroom blocks are then seeded with the spawn before being moved to another building for three months to incubate. It wasn’t the optimum way to produce mushrooms. But without the money to purchase a proper autoclave and other equipment, we designed a system that worked with the money we had.

Because the incubation and grow buildings were not destroyed, we can still be found at the farmer’s market pedaling the rest of this year’s harvest. But without the critical production building, we’ll soon be looking at empty space.

Unfortunately, the nightmare did not stop with the ashes. I subsequently found out I was underinsured by an agent who never came to the farm; a major client cancelled a large order; a local shop started ordering from an Oregon distributor; and my canine companion of 17 years, Willow, had to be put asleep. I think we have the makings of a bestselling C&W song.

So… on to rebirth. When you open the door to the grow room you are greeted with the message “There’s nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.” Scotty and I have a solid desire to rebuild and a fluid plan to do it. This time around we are committed to designing and conducting a business that will increase production, reduce unit costs, and hopefully find that elusive sweet spot where food is local and fresh but with enough volume enough to make the venture economically viable and sustainable.

We are researching a large pole barn where everything could be done under one roof. We will need the proper equipment including an autoclave and batch mixer to develop a process that will hopefully create a handful of new jobs, use less propane per mushroom block, grow more species, and be able to serve a larger market. We also plan to do more “value added” products like dried mushrooms, spice mixes, etc.

Whether this is a story of a Phoenix reborn from the ashes or just ashes to ashes remains to be seen. What gives Scotty and I hope is our local community. If you find yourself for whatever reason wondering how to help, here’s a thought:

We are exploring the idea of a Halloween party benefit to kick-start the journey. We need:

  • A band or two
  • People willing to provide homemade food
  • Local harvest items to sell- canned goods, harvest overflow, food, wine
  • A party committee

For the business rebuild, Mountain Valley Mushrooms needs:

  • A large building to possibly lease for the short term- at least 40 x 50 fee
  • Graphic design to help with plotting of future farm
  • Web design
  • An intern
  • Creative financing/investor angel
  •  Restaurant and wholesale commitments from Lander to Sun Valley
  • Old grain bin- 16-feet or larger to store wood in
  • Strong backs, helping hands, and a warm meal once in a while.

In closing, our sincere thanks for your interest and continued support.

Tye Tilt and Scott Button

Mountain Valley Mushrooms

Tye Tilt has served on the board of directors of Slow Food in the Tetons since it’s inception in 2007.


September $5+ Membership Drive- 50% to Local Chapters!

7 09 2011

Slow Food in the Tetons, our local chapter of Slow Food USA has done a lot this year to reconnect people with where food comes from including:
A Locavore’s Night Out
Sponsorship of Full Circle Education, Vertical Harvest, and the People’s Market in Jackson
School Garden Support
Sustainability Classes
Food Tastings, dinners and events
Local Food promotion
But to keep our chapter strong, we need 50 new members by September 30. Can we count on you to help us get there? A donation in any amount will make you a member and for September only 50% of your donations to SFUSA will go to our local chapter.

You may be wondering: “so what’s in it for me?” Maybe it’s connecting with other people at potlucks and discounts on events like our Slowtoberfest. Or maybe it’s the updates on what’s happening in our food chain and opportunities to get involved in making it better. All this and more are part of the benefits of Slow Food USA membership.

Click here to make a donation in any amount and join now.

Looking forward to sharing a good meal and welcoming you as our newest member.

Sue Muncaster, President
Slow Food in the Tetons; Slow Food USA
P.S. This “give what you can” membership offer is only available in September.
Join today before it’s too late!

We’re Hiring! Part-time Executive Director wanted for Slow Food in the Tetons

7 09 2011

We are seeking a part-time Executive Director (estimated 10 hours per week to start with room for growth). Click here to download a detailed job description in pdf format. Applications will be accepted through Thursday, Sept. 15th, with an estimated start-date at the end of September. Please send a resume, one-page letter of intent, and 2 references to Nancy at Call Board President Sue Muncaster 307-690-3509 if you have questions.

Slow Food in the Tetons Mission:
Slow Food in the Tetons seeks to create dramatic and lasting change in our local food system. Through education, events, and initiatives we reconnect with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We seek to inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices, and market forces so that they ensure equity, sustainability, and pleasure in the food we eat.

Best Pie in the Tetons Contest- Tin Cup Challenge Sat. July 16

7 07 2011

Slow Food in the Tetons is putting on a Pie Contest at the Tin Cup! Saturday, July 16 Driggs City Park

*Best Overall
*Best Use of Local Ingredients
*Best Savory Pie
*Most Artistic
*Best Heritage Recipe

Drop off 1 or 2 pies by 9 a.m. at the Slow Food booth with a list of ingredients: Please no pies that require refrigeration

We will offer pie by the slice and have our panel of judges vote on each! Who wants to be a judge?

Please show your support of Slow Food in the Tetons and Full Circle Education by making a donation on our behalf. You can quickly and easily make a donation by visiting the Teton Valley Community Foundation website
Donations are matched by Tin Cup Community Challengers to make your donation even more valuable!

Slow Food Outreach Center, Sustainability Library and Kitchen Exchange Open!

28 06 2011

While the internet may be the preferred method of getting quick information these days, it can’t replace a good book and a knowledgeable neighbor to help a person with a challenging garden project, a green building design, or a new business. In the spirit of community and sharing the new Slow Food in the Teton’s Outreach Center, Sustainability Library and Kitchen Exchange is set to open its doors to the public on Tuesday, June 21. Partially funded by a grant from the Targhee Protect Our Winters fund and underwritten by a handful of local businesses who share the non-profit’s vision of a vibrant and diverse local food community, the group hopes the Outreach Center will be a great community resource for folks who want to look into starting a food business, improve their gardening skills, become a better parent, or find inspiration to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Of course many of the books have a food focus, and in addition to the obvious popular titles like Jane Goodall’s Harvest for Hope and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle there are many obscure and fun titles like French Women Don’t Get Fat and Candy Freak. Cookbooks are generally aimed at natural, local, or traditional foods with titles like The Herb Farm Cookbook, Rocky Mountain Wild Foods, and Monet’s Table. And there’s a whole shelf on dedicated to cheesemaking, as well as a number of books on canning and preserving.

There are a wide variety of gardening and animal husbandry books and quite a few titles that are specific to this area. Some are simply picture books full of flowers, while others offer major inspiration like Solviva: How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre and Peace on Earth. The Ecology, Environment and Land Use section houses a number of old classic titles like Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher to the new Getting Green Done by Auden Schendler. For folks hoping to start a business there are both technical–like Keeping the Books–and non-technical titles–like Yvon Chouinard’s Let My People Go Surfing. There are also growing files with information on Idaho and Wyoming regulations and resources for food businesses. A dozen green building books are also available, but more are needed. Two smaller categories include “Inspiration” with a bunch of Malcolm Gladwell books like Blink, Outliers, and the Tipping Point, as well as I Slowness, Three Cups of Tea, and a small but relevant parenting section, and a handful of kids books and activities.

The kitchen exchange is a selection of specialty food preparation items collected for folks to give a new gadget a try before investing in it, and making sure stuff doesn’t just sit around in a cupboard somewhere. There are three handmade pasta makers, one electric, a couple of meat grinders, a high quality food dehydrators, a canning and preserving set up, a couple of gourmet ice cream makers, yogurt makers, and a few good juicers. “Yea, there is a chance that some of the equipment will suffer some wear and tear, but it’s better than it sitting unused in many pantries,” says Slow Food board president Sue Muncaster. “Our hope is that a family could come in, pick up a cookbook and a gadget to try, and go home and spend time making something new–and what better time than summer to do it!”

The majority of books have been loaned by community members Sue Muncaster, Christian Santelices, Tye Tilt, Blaire Kribs, and Ross Kamens. The Slow Food board is a diverse group who can consult on many aspects of local food production, distribution, composting, and restaurant management. “My dream is that someone comes in the door with a dream who needs help, and we can give them some resources and advice to get their project off the ground,” says Muncaster.

Hours for the Outreach Center will be Tuesday and Thursday mornings 10-1 throughout the summer, during the Driggs Farmer’s Market and other downtown Driggs events  and by appointment just about any time. It will also be open during downtown Driggs events. Look for the Follow the Snail sandwich board that will be It’s located at 85 South Main in Driggs across from the Post Office. Slow Food is asking for a $25 yearly family membership as a contribution (but anyone in financial need shouldn’t be dissuaded). Some of the bigger kitchen equipment has an additional use fee. Community support throughout the summer through participation and financial donations during Tin Cup and other events will determine the future of the Outreach Center.

A full, searchable list of resources available at the Outreach Center can be found at where the collection can be viewed or searched by tags, complete with ratings. Donations or loans to the library and kitchen exchange are welcome as long as they fit our categories.

Contact Information:
Sue Muncaster

Calling All Eaters, Producers, Chefs, Intstitutions: Food Census Surveys Go Live:

12 05 2011

Slow Food in the Tetons is in the process of assessing our regional food system in terms of size, markets and needs with a “Food Census”. Widespread community feedback will help us adapt our programming to better serve our local community, and will be available to local policy makers and anyone in the food business.

Consumer Survey
For everyone who eats.

Farmers and Food Producers Survey:
If residents who currently raise livestock, grow vegetables, bake bread, bottle honey, brew beer, or want to get involved in creating edibles.

Restaurants, Grocers, Hospitals, Schools & other Institutions Survey
For persons who are chefs, purchase food for hospitals, run a grocery store, plan menus for schools, or anything else involved in feeding other people.

Links to all these surveys on Facebook (Slow Food in the Tetons) and our website

Hard copies are available at for food producers at Barrels and Bins, Jackson Whole Grocer, and Teton County Extension Offices in Driggs and Jackson.

Deadline May 31, 2011

For more information visit our website at or email

Slow Food in the Tetons is a nonprofit 501c3 organization

Food Rave: The 5th Annual Locavore’s Night Out

2 05 2011

I always get a slightly sickish panic just before a party that I’ve organized starts. I worry no one will show and feel naked and overdressed at the same time. Because my friends are usually “fashionably late,” I really get myself in a tizzy dreaming up disaster scenarios that never happen. But last Friday night, when I pulled into the Wildwood Room parking lot at 5:03 pm (set-up duties responsible for my wet hair from a 4:50 pm shower at my nearby home), the lot was filled. By 5:30 the cars were lined out to Highway 33. Fueled by a craving for local food, over 500 “locavores” came out of hibernation from both sides of Teton Pass to eat, drink, play, and reconnected with friends after a long, long winter at the 5th annual Locavore’s Night Out.

Our own rural version of a “food rave” (a term stolen from NYT article this week on a hot national trend),  a Locavore’s Night Out was originally dreamed up with the help of Molly Bagnato from the Murie Center as part of a series of Earth Day events; we wanted to showcase local food producers and help them connect with customers.  I had just returned from my first trip to Slow Food International’s Terra Madre  and the Salone del Gusto in Italy, and suggested an event that copied the Salone model of a Farmer’s Market setup but with free samples and a chance to talk to producers as the goal, as opposed to just selling food. We asked Bill Boney from Dining In  to try to make a local meal—not an easy task in April. That first year we were impressed that he came up with a local beef burger and enough salad greens to go around. This year he could have started a new restaurant with his menu.

This year’s highlights? The diversity. There were over twenty tables of local cheese, beer, wine, breads, sauces and spreads, soup mixes, candies, supplements, Tram Bars, cold frames, beef, beef, and more beef, a whole side of rotisserie pork, CSA sign ups, greens, and raw milk. The six succulent choices on Bill Boney’s menu reflected this diversity. The “Aspen’s Market Spiedini” —sausage stuffed in lamb casing, rolled into a pinwheel, skewered then grilled and served with Cosmic Apple  roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and carrots brought me as close to Italy as I can afford right now. My kids scarffed the “All Local Cheesesteak Sandwich” made with 460 bread, Teton Waters’  beef,Teton Valley Creamery’s  alpine-style cheese, caramelized onions and Snowdrift Farms salad greens. Sue Ciscero, chef at the Senior Center in Driggs, was assisting Bill and rumor has it she was the hand behind the vibrant, decadent green and red “Pasta Puttanesca” made with organic tomatoes, local garlic, HD Dunn and Sons  beef sausage, Snowdrift Farm pork sausage, Cosmic Apple pepperoni, and Lark’s Meadow aged sheep’s cheese… and that was just half the menu!

This year’s Locavore’s Night Out was a kick off for the Slow Food in the Tetons’ Food Census which is part of our new initiative the Teton Food Project. Over the next month we will survey local farmers and food producers, consumers, chefs, and other institutions (hospitals, schools, resorts) to determine the current state of local food production and consumption, community needs, and level of commitment to change. We hope to use this data to guide our strategic planning process and compile a document that can be used by food business entrepreneurs, other government and civic groups (Chambers, business development, land use). Friday night we worried people might not want to take the time to fill out the long questionnaire, but they bellied up to the bar and there was plenty of furious scribbling. I like to think it was more that the promise of a free raffle ticket that was responsible for the enthusiasm. Everyone who eats is encouraged to fill it out and there are separate surveys specifically for producers and chefs. The will be available online or one can be emailed by contacting

If we stopped today, I’d say our vision of a diverse and vibrant food community has become a reality. But we are just getting started

Sue Muncaster is the editor of Teton Family Magazine and Board President of Slow Food in the Tetons

Thanks to Slow Food in the Tetons/ Locavore’s Night Out Sponsors:
Grand Targhee Resort
The Jackson Whole Grocer
Intermountain Aquatics
The Aspens Market
Yostmark Mountain Sports
Trail Creek Nursery
Idaho Preferred
MD Nursery
Snake River Brewing
Grand Teton Brewing
Teton Family Magazine

Teton Valley Creamery