Benton REA - Growing Green

Ostrom produces three types of mushrooms at its Sunnyside farm: White button, Crimini and Portabella. White buttons are their most popular mushroom. PHOTO BY EMILY MCLAUGHLIN

Ostrom Mushroom Farms in Sunnyside focuses on the future through sustainable technology and farming practices

By Emily McLaughlin

The largest mushroom producer in Washington is growing greener.

Every year, Ostrom Mushroom Farms produces 12 million pounds of mushrooms and sends them around Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. The farm relocated to Sunnyside from Olympia in 2019. Its state-of-the-art facility is built on a 43-acre property, giving Ostrom the opportunity to double its current mushroom production.

When building the Sunnyside farm, Ostrom implemented the newest sustainable technology. The company received a $102,585 new construction rebate from Benton REA because of its future-focused design.

Tony Simon, an Energy Smart industrial partner with the Bonneville Power Administration, worked closely with Ostrom during construction.
"Our number one goal is to help customers identify and implement cost-effective energy efficiency," Tony says.
"We're really interested in working on things that will benefit the customers and be cost effective."

Most energy-efficiency measures at Ostrom were upgrades to refrigeration and the installation of variable frequency drives on pumps and fans. Variable frequency drives are like electronic mode speed controllers, keeping energy usage down because the technology they are attached to no longer has to constantly run at full speed.

All 48 growing rooms at Ostrom have new LED lighting to help keep workers safe in dark environments while reducing energy consumption.

Ostrom will save 2,602,422 kilowatt hours per year with its new equipment. The energy savings are equivalent to 236 Northwest homes going completely off the electric grid.

Ostrom also received $94,900 from the Cascade Natural Gas Commercial Incentive Program for installing three high-efficiency condensing boiler systems. These systems will save 91,800 therms annually, comparable to the amount used by 144 Northwest homes throughout a year

"It's cheaper for everyone to save energy where it's used than it is to produce more," Tony says. "Ostrom Farms is producing the same amount of product at the same quality, but consuming less electricity to do it."

Mushrooms are already one of the most sustainably produced foods in the United States, but Ostrom takes it to the next level.

"Mushroom growers, like ourselves, are known as the ultimate recyclers," says Travis Wood, CEO of Ostrom Mushroom Farms. "We convert byproducts and waste from other sectors of agriculture into the compost we use to grow mushrooms."

Travis uses the three R's—reduce, reuse, recycle—to explain Ostrom's process.

"We reduce our carbon footprint through energy rebate programs like the ones with Benton REA and Cascade Natural Gas," he says. "We reuse our vegetable waste by making our own compost. Then we recycle our own wastewater back into our process."

Their growing style mimics a closed-loop farming system that recycles all nutrients and organic matter back into the soil it grew in, keeping the farm sustainable and using fewer resources.

"Mushrooms require a very small amount of water, energy and land for growing," Travis says. "They are a great way to eat healthy while reducing your impact on the environment."

Mushrooms themselves are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle, making them especially important to Pacific Northwest diets. Ostrom mushrooms are vitamin D-enriched. All mushrooms contain some vitamin D, but enriched ones have increased amounts due to exposure to ultraviolet light.

The new farm in Sunnyside has 300 employees. According to Travis, working at a mushroom farm has unique advantages.

"We're the only farm in the area that's not seasonal because we're indoors," he says. "Being indoors in a climate-controlled facility, instead of being outside in the heat or cold, is another benefit as well."

Employee satisfaction is important at Ostrom.

"The most important asset a company has is its people," Travis says. "We want employees to enjoy what they're doing and feel like their contributions are being valued."

In 2028, Ostrom Mushroom Farms will reach 100 years in business.

"When companies reach that milestone, it's a testament to the quality of the product and the people who make it," Travis says. "There's an art to mushroom picking and growing. It takes years to master."."

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