Eric Roman is a fun guy who likes fungi.
The Zephyrhills resident likes mushrooms so much, he started a farm, specifically just to grow them.
“I enjoy growing things, lots of things,” Roman said. “I just want to grow things, for now it’s mushrooms. Eventually, I want to do more but I’m focusing on the mushrooms now.
“Mushrooms, when I say that to you, what do people think?” Roman continued. “Probably the ones that grow in their yard or flower beds — unwanted ones. There’s so much more to mushrooms though. There’s a whole industry to them, and even health benefits, and more and more different ways to cook them.
“Anyways, I think (growing mushrooms) is cool.”
That’s probably a good thing since Roman is the man behind Zephyrgills Mushroom Farm, which he has been operating, and growing, for more than four years now.
He’s doing well, producing at a great pace — about 800 blocks that grow mushrooms a month. He sells his crops to local markets and stores and also attends some out-of-town markets, including The Villages, where he sells mushrooms, too.
Roman said he learned how to start and grow mushrooms from attending lectures delivered by experts and by watching YouTube videos.
And he runs his farm all by himself.
“It’s all organic — I don’t use any chemicals (on the property),” Roman said. “I have a steady source (of materials to grow mushrooms), and the mushroom farm is key. It’s integral to getting the rest going because I want the farm, eventually, to do so much more.”
Growing mushrooms starts with mycelium, or a network of fungal threads, and it connects to everything. Roman creates organic blocks with mycelium, and then places them in one of his three grow houses, which are damp, dark and cool.
Growth time varies, depending on the type of mushroom, such as shiitake or Lion’s mane. It could take days, or weeks, but Roman keeps a diligent eye on his fungi, knowing they are a valuable commodity.
Mushrooms are now being considered a superfood, thanks to its health benefits depending on which mushrooms are consumed. They need to be fully cooked, Roman said, as eating raw mushrooms is not recommended.
Certain mushrooms are said to boost health properties such as being anti-inflammatory, helping with growing good gut bacteria and helping cognitive functions.
“Mushrooms are even being drunk now in tea and even coffee,” Roman added. “It’s just a massive industry, and I’m happy to be a part of it with my little farm here in Zephyrhills.
“With mycelium,” he added, “it was just learning about how it works and what it does. All the really cool stuff about mycelium got me intrigued into growing mushrooms and just learning more about it. It was all very fascinating.”
Roman also has learned many different ways mushrooms can be cooked, prepared and served. He also knows that mushrooms aren’t a universally desired food, with many flat out refusing to eat them.
But he also knows that he can change minds — because, after all, he’s a fungi guy.
“I feel challenged when people say they don’t like them, but I didn’t either,” Roman said. “I can find a way to cook them or prepare them that you’ll like them — I mean, just look at what everyone does with meat. They find a way people like that, so you can do it with mushrooms.
“People even make mushroom tacos now, so it’s like a super food. You don’t get addicted to it, but the effect it has on you — a great effect — is great for you, and it’s mushrooms, believe it or not.”
Zephyrgills Mushroom Farm
Details: A small, but thriving mushroom farm run by Eric Roman in Zephyrhills. All the mushrooms grown on Roman’s property are organic and locally sold at stores, restaurants and markets.
Info: Visit Zephyrgills.com.
Published November 29, 2023