Boomers Farm: Spores of science is an art
Paul Surridge, owner of Boomers Farm in Gypsum, cultivates several varieties of mushroom spores in his laboratory, including golden and pink oyster mushrooms.
Paul Surridge is a Vermont kid from a dairy town that had 14 kids at high school graduation. It was a quiet, agriculture-rich childhood filled with the longest winters and the shortest growing seasons.
“We’d have snow, then rain, then snow again, for weeks on end. Regardless, I always had an area in my parents’ garden from a young age,” explains Paul Surridge, the now semi-master mushroom farmer and creator of Boomers Farm.
“I traded the slopes of Vermont for Vail in summer 1995,” he adds. “And what a season! We were snowboarding until July that year — I wasn’t ever leaving.”
Surridge’s childhood peppered with food and hospitality resonated well in the Vail Valley. “I learned to cut meat in high school at the deli I worked at; I’ve just always been surrounded by raw ingredients and gatherings.”
After nearly 20 years working nights and raising young children in the valley, Surridge knew it was time for a lifestyle swap. “We have a storage rental space in Gypsum that I help run and inherited an 18-wheeler. We thought, what could we do, or, even better, grow in the truck?”
Surridge wanted produce that was low impact, meaning it didn’t require much water, heating in winter or cooling in summer; therefore, the footprint of the business would be minimalized. In 2019, Surridge began tinkering with his mushroom hobby and forged ahead into his first season selling mushrooms in winter.
“It wasn’t efficient, and it was still very much a passion and not a business,” he admits.
Mushrooms are one of the few vegetables that can give extremely fast results, meaning, mushroom spores can grow to monstrous size in less than two weeks.
“They’re an easy bloom for either your garden or the kitchen counter,” he explains. “It happens super-fast: Just days later, people can harvest the mushrooms for consumption.”
But a serendipitous meeting with another mushroom farmer has had a big impact on his capabilities. While traveling through to watch a band playing at Red Rocks, the online friends reconnected and eventually he helped Surridge at his Gypsum location.
“He was producing 900 pounds of mushrooms weekly,” he exclaims. “He consulted with me and helped with some new methods. I really wanted to grow clean, healthy mushrooms with the least infringement on nature, and this happenstance was the best coincidence for the business. We still stay in touch and I still ask his advice.”
This summer Boomers Farm will be producing up to 25 pounds weekly of golden, pink and blue oyster shrooms, along with king trumpet and lion’s mane mushrooms to local chefs as well as R Farmers’ Market in Avon, Edwards Village Market and restaurants such as Vista in Arrowhead and Boneyard in Eagle.
Come winter, the true remarkability of Surridge’s crops becomes evident as he will increase production to 50 pounds a week with snow and blue oyster, as well as king trumpet and lion’s mane, for chefs and markets. “I don’t think of myself as a farmer, rather a firefighter — isn’t that what all farmers are? I’m always fixing the problems, and that’s a new role I need to accept,” Surridge says.
In acceptance, there is still tinkering: “I’ve been playing around with the medicinal side of mushrooms, as well. My father passed away from dementia, and I’ve researched that certain mushrooms such as lion’s mane can help ease symptoms and even reverse the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases. You bet I’m trying to do some preventative care.”
Surridge has also been creating a line of mushroom jerky that will hopefully be in market soon. With the same texture as traditional beef jerky, the nutrient-rich snack has all the benefits for a meat substitute.
“I’m also working with other forms of dehydration for powders and tinctures,” he says.
And Surridge’s children? They’re out helping at the 18-wheeler, learning the business; however, there’s always a space for them, too, to try their own varieties or vegetables just as their grandfather had instilled in their dad. But for now, there’s fungus among us.
For more information, find Boomers Farm on Facebook.