Matthew and Lama Nasser-Gammett, met and married in Boise, Idaho where they bonded over regenerative farming and earth stewardship. Looking for a crop they could grow, they discovered mushrooms – something that can be grown with a very small amount of space, relatively little water and yet produce a massive yield of nutrient rich food. Oyster mushroom production is also unique in that it can exclusively rely on agricultural waste streams like wheat straw, rice straw, wood chips, coffee grinds, or spent brewer’s mash to grow – with great efficiency. A pound of straw can produce a pound of fresh mushrooms.

The Nasser-Gammet’s built their first mushroom house in their backyard and started refining their mushroom cultivation techniques. A few years later, their daughter was born and they felt pulled to move to Boonville in search of more progressive ideals and lifestyle – and most of all, redwoods.

As they learned more and more they became experts in mycology and applied agriculture technologies and became certified by Mendocino Renegade in biologically produced food. They named their business The Forest People.

Currently the Forest People produce about 30-50 pounds a week of fresh, gourmet oyster mushrooms, which they sell in area farmers’ markets, local restaurants, and through the MendoLake Food Hub, a non-profit local food distribution center. 

As with any farming operation, The Forest People often have a surplus. But they didn’t want to just put their excess in the compost. Instead they dehydrated, cooked and seasoned the excess and created an entirely new product – mushroom jerky. And their regular customers soon went crazy for the new product.

The Forest People’s mushroom jerky is vegan, gluten free and made with unrefined, organic ingredients. It’s also competes well with jerky currently on the market in that it is protein rich, low calorie and paleo-friendly. 

Realizing there was a serious demand for this nutrient-rich food, Lama applied to Startup Mendocino to see if she could take it to the next level. They put in their application, made it to the final round, and took home the grand prize of $10,000 from the John and Sandra Mayfield Economic Development Fund at The Community Foundation of Mendocino County.

Lama notes that applying and going through training resulted in, “learning the importance of clear and concise presentation of ideas.†She was also surprised and heartened by, “how much community support we have and how curious and interested people are in our product idea.â€

For The Forest People, Startup Mendocino was also “an opportunity to obtain the capital that we needed to launch our mushroom jerky project. As a small-scale food producer we work really hard for a meager income, so it’s challenging to save up money for new endeavors.â€

Now The Forest People have purchased some of the equipment they need to start larger scale operations, they are sourcing a commercial kitchen, and still running their mushroom business, which is also growing by leaps and bounds.

“We hope to be in full production on our jerky by Spring,†Nasser-Gammett notes. With plans to acquire a commercial dehydrator, refrigeration, and applying for all the necessary permits for production, they hope to have their website up for e-commerce orders and to start bringing the mushroom jerky revolution to the masses.