125.Erik Lomen on Innovating Mushroom Cultivation

Have you ever considered a fun alternative to traditional farming?


Fungi, that is! Joining us today on the Thriving Farmer Podcast is the founder of Maine Cap N’ Stem, Erik Lomen. Maine Cap N’ Stem started in 2014, cultivating a variety of gourmet mushrooms from spore to store below the streets of Portland Maine. Within a year, their fresh mushroom production expanded from less than 200 sq ft to a 3,000 sq ft facility in Westbrook, Maine. In 2016, Maine Cap N’ Stem decided to drop out of the fresh mushroom market altogether and work directly with farms all across the country to supply their growing mushroom demand with ready-to-fruit substrate. Tune in to learn all about how Erik built his mycological empire and how he runs it today!

In This Episode:

About Erik’s first experience with mushrooms 0:49

When Erik started selling mushrooms 2:57

What his sales outlets were in the beginning 4:50

What building the spawn line entailed 12:14

How Erik goes about marketing 24:12

The three things new mushroom farmers need to know 38:19

What a more advanced mushroom grower could do to take their business to the next level 42:05

What the hiring process is like at Maine Cap N’ Stem 45:28

How Erik manages time on the farm 51:42

What advice Erik has for new farmers 54:35

About the Guest

Erik Lomen is an owner operator at Maine Cap N’ Stem, a certified organic supplier of commercial grade ready-to-fruit substrate and spawn.

Maine Cap N’ Stem started in 2014, cultivating a variety of gourmet mushrooms from spore to store below the streets of Portland, Maine. Within a year, their fresh mushroom production expanded from less than 200 sq ft to a 3,000 sq ft facility in Westbrook, Maine.

Between 2015 and 2016 the decentralized micro mushroom industry began exploding all across the country and at the time it was integral for each of these small farms to develop their own cultures, spawn, and fruiting substrate to grow fresh mushrooms and supply a self built distribution system for sales to farmers markets, restaurants, and wholesalers. In 2016, Maine Cap N’ Stem decided to drop out of the fresh mushroom market altogether and work directly with these farms all across the country to supply their growing mushroom demand with ready-to-fruit substrate.

This transition set a business pivot into motion as they became the first national producer and distributor of Certified Organic Mushroom Substrate for small and large farms across the continental USA. In 2016 we moved to our current 20,000+ sq ft facility in Gardiner, Maine and began producing and supplying farms from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon with an easier scalable option to grow by skipping the intensive lab work to produce their own spawn and substrate and simply focus on fruiting and selling fresh mushrooms. Within the last 5 years they have proven the model to work and continue to support the growth and development of fresh mushroom farms around the states. 

From 2019 to 2020 Maine Cap N’ Stem developed a state of the art spawn production facility and expanded their offerings from simply substrate to spawn and culture products as well as “combination substrate pellets” for farms to forward integrate and scale up into their own substrate production for a balance of options and supply chain diversification allowing a higher level of control for each farm’s independent focus.

With each year that passes as we continue to grow, innovate, and develop, our goal remains the same: Help independent farms sustainably grow to supply the massive demand for fresh mushrooms across all market platforms!

Resources and mentions

Website – https://capnstem.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mainecapnstemco/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/mainecapnstemco/

And if you want to keep the conversation going, join us in our Facebook Group to connect with us and other farmers looking to grow their business!

We also have six free eguides to help you be more effective on your farm (Winter Growing, Pastured Poultry, Washing Shed Efficiency, Profitable Farmers Toolkit, what to look for in a farm property, etc), which you can download here.