PHOTO: Photo: RNZ/Leah Tebbutt
Kyle Davey is a man with many hats. He’s been a sheep farmer, a builder, a beekeeper and the local postman.
Two years ago, he decided he needed a winter off – but with all those skills under his belt, it’s no surprise he got bored.
But an idea was sprouting, and by happy coincidence, and eventually some pretty fungi turned into a serious horticultural enterprise.
“I thought ‘I’ve got to find something to do while I’m at home,” Kyle says.
“I saw some ready-to-grow bags and got addicted from there.”
Kyle says he’s always been interested in mushrooms and simply got carried away.
He and his wife Cath live up New Zealand’s longest no-exit road – Waitotara Valley Road in Taranaki.
It’s where the couple have landed since meeting in Australia where Cath worked as a theatre nurse.
Melbourne was the first stop on Kyle’s world trip – but after meeting Cath he never travelled further.
With their two-year-old son, the couple eventually returned to farm in the area where Kyle grew up.
“We call it Paradise Valley. We’re about 34 kilometres up, hidden away in the hills.”
The valley is the inspiration behind the name Valley Mushrooms.
Kyle focuses his efforts on growing gourmet mushrooms such as pink and grey oyster mushrooms, shiitake and Pekepeke-kiore, also known as New Zealand lion’s mane or coral tooth fungus.
At the time of acquiring his first grow bag, Kyle had sold off most of the farm, keeping 12 hectares including the olive green woolshed.
Originally an aircraft hangar in Whanganui, it was brought to the farm by the previous owner and reassembled.
Now the structure is having its third lease on life.
Instead of pens full of sheep, there are shelves packed with bags of pine pellets inoculated with mushroom spores.
“I’d still spend my days over here with a cold beer, tinkering away in the shed.
“I just grew a couple to start with and from there I thought, maybe I’ll grow some and take them to the market and see what happens.”
That’s where Kyle’s building skills came in handy.
He converted the woolshed into insulated labs and fruiting chambers. Shelf after shelf contains mushrooms at all the different stages of growth throughout the shed.
The process begins with soybean hull and pine pellets.
One kilogram of each goes into each bag – via a contraption made by Kyle, of course – and it’s then mixed with water and steamed for 30 hours to kill off the bugs.
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