Great Plains Fungi growing mushrooms and a thriving business

Collin Loflin, Owner of Great Plains Fungi

When most of us think of mushrooms, we picture those small blue plastic boxes in the grocery store that contain whole or sliced white or baby bella mushrooms, often not-s0-fresh looking.  There is such a large world of mushrooms beyond that choice, it’s astounding.  Their health benefits have been known for centuries and in recent years the business of growing mushrooms has really taken off (I had to fight myself not to say “sprouted”).  As early as 450 BCE, the Greek physician Hippocrates classified the amadou mushroom as a powerful anti-inflammatory and wound cauterizer.  The Greeks also believed that eating mushrooms made warriors stronger.  Mushrooms have also been a large part of Chinese, Scandinavian and Japanese cultures, to name a few. In fact, Japan currently has an approved mushroom-based drug to treat cancer.

In an unassuming large metal building just north of Lamar, a newer local company, Great Plains Fungi, is doing amazing things with mushrooms.  I recently was given a tour of the facility by owner Collin Loflin and I learned things about mushrooms that amazed me.  Collin told me that he grew up in a farming family in Baca County and has always had an interest in the potential of mycelium (the root-like structure of a fungus).  While in California, he learned the art of growing mushrooms indoors and has brought that with him back to Prowers County.

The process starts out by creating the growing medium, usually made up of wood pellets or soybean pellets, although he told me that just about any other agricultural “waste product” can be used, including straw and sunflower shells.  The medium is bagged, water is added and then it is sterilized at 200 degrees for 8 hours, then kept bagged for anywhere from 8-24 hours to complete the sterilization process.  The sterilized bags then move to the laboratory (a spotless, sterile room), where they are inoculated with actively growing mycelium.  Collin grows the mycelium he uses in agar plates in a mixture he makes out of malt or dextrose extract.  The bags are well mixed after being inoculated and the waiting period begins.  The bags are marked as to which variety of mushroom they contain and are stored in shelves in a large room to begin the process. When they are actively growing, the bags have a large “X” cut into them and are moved to a cooler room kept at 55-65 degrees, where they are misted at least twice a day for approximately 2 weeks until they are ready to harvest.  After harvesting, the growing medium is then turned into compost.  Fresh mushrooms begin to “go bad” in 7-10 days, so it’s a delicate balance of growing enough of them to satisfy orders versus having to waste any unsold ones, which explains why so many grocery store mushrooms appear to be past their prime.

The health benefits of mushrooms are vast.  They are rich in vitamins and minerals and have been shown to boost immunity, promote brain and bone health, regulate blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and more. They are low in calories yet high in protein and fiber.  Beyond culinary uses, they are being used for biodegradable packaging, cosmetics and skin care, making mushroom paper, to make “vegan leather” and (my favorite) as insulation for construction purposes.  For insulation, the growing mycelium is pressed into molds and it immediately begins to grow into an airtight block or plate which is then used as insulation.  It is fire-resistant, insect resistant, low in cost, low in density and provides excellent thermal and acoustic properties.

Great Plains currently grows Blue Oyster, Golden Oyster, Italian Oyster, Black Pearl, King Trumpet and Lion’s Mane species.  They differ greatly in looks, but all are beautiful in color and shape.  Currently, the company sells them wholesale to restaurants (look for them soon in one of our local restaurants!) as well as selling them at farmer’s markets primarily in Pueblo and Colorado Springs.  They also had a display at the recent Wiley Hay Days.  Currently being sold here in fresh or dehydrated form, Collin hopes to soon be able to produce mushroom jerky as well.

For more information, visit their website at

By: Barbara Crimond

Filed Under: AgricultureFeaturedHealth


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