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Farmers Market: Leafcutter Farms, like its six-legged namesake, grows mushrooms

Victoria Halligan and Justin Crouse of Leafcutter Farms sell mushrooms at the Durango Farmers Market. (Nick Gonzales/Durango Herald)
Fungus farmers also sell cultivation supplies for would-be growers

If the number of mushroom vendors at the farmers market is any indication, there is a big market for gourmet mushrooms in Durango.

Justin Crouse and Victoria Halligan started growing mushrooms about three years ago as a hobby in Laporte, outside Fort Collins, before it blossomed into a business.

“We saw the demand for mushrooms and the gourmet mushroom market kind of growing in the United States,” Crouse said. “So we figured we’d give it a shot, and we turned it into an official business about two years ago.”

They then moved the business to Durango at the end of February, he said.

“We focus on growing high-quality gourmet mushrooms, feeding local people high-quality food,” he said.

These mushrooms include oysters, shiitakes, trumpets and reishi varieties. He said the mushroom farm hopes to get into a few local markets this fall, as well as the winter farmers market.

On its website, the farm also sells cultivation supplies – such as petri dishes, grain spawn and liquid cultures – for people to grow their own mushrooms at home.

The name of Crouse and Halligan’s farm comes from the leafcutter ants endemic to Central and South America and in the southern United States.

“They go and defoliate trees, and they bring those leaves back to their nest, and then they cultivate mushrooms on those leaves – so they’re like the original mushroom farmers,” Crouse said. “They actually bring the leaves back, grow the mushrooms, and that’s all they eat is the mushrooms. It’s like a really sophisticated, cool system.”

The farm’s mission is ultimately the same as its insectoid namesakes: to feed the surrounding community.

“We’re just excited to be bringing these kinds of mushrooms to Southwestern Colorado and the Four Corners because they’re an awesome nutritional food and they’re delicious,” he said.

ngonzales@durangoherald.com

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