Flavor Country Farms, located in the Loess Hills near Honey Creek, is a small farm specializing in mushrooms and microgreens. They started at the current site in September 2018, but owner Kevin Novak had been growing in his Omaha basement before the move. Prior to that, Kevin spent several years in the restaurant industry in Chicago before returning to his hometown. While studying at Metro Community College, he became interested in fungi and tried growing mushrooms for the first time.
Kevin is primarily self-taught, though he did attend a two-day training with world-renowned fungi expert Paul Stamets. Most of his expertise comes from years of experience and experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
In January 2022, fire destroyed a building that was primarily being used for storage. The structure is currently being rebuilt as a packing house. Once completed, it will increase their capacity for production and storage. They plan to incorporate more value-added products like lion’s mane jerky, powder & capsules, and more.
Flavor Country is a “chef-inspired” farm – Kevin asks the restaurant chefs what they want and caters to their needs. They currently sell to 40-50 markets per week, totaling about 700 pounds of product.
The mushrooms grown by Flavor Country are called primary decomposers, and commonly are found in the wild growing on trees. The “big 4” – lion’s mane, oyster, chestnut & black pearl—are most popular for restaurants. Each variety has their own unique flavor and preferred recipes. Lion’s mane crab cakes, for example, are popular with many chefs. Oyster mushrooms grow the quickest are the least likely to be contaminated as they have the most aggressive mycelium to fight against contamination. Oysters are a great mushroom for an entry-level or hobbyist grower. Used mushrooms blocks are used to create mushroom compost for their vegetables.
The mushroom process starts with clones or spores, then agar or liquid culture. From there is Generation 1 spawn, followed by Gen 2 and Gen 3. Next, it goes into a fruiting substrate, into incubation, then the grow room, and finally packing. The fuiting chamber requires very specific temperature, humidity, CO levels, and fresh air. An intricate geoair thermal battery was built into the ground beneath the grow room to help regulate the environmental conditions for optimal mushroom growth. October to March seems to be the best time to grow mushrooms, as they are not fans of the heat. Bugs like fungus gnats are more likely to cause problems in warmer weather.
Besides mushrooms, Flavor Country’s microgreens are popular with restaurants. They currently sell 30 varieties of microgreens, but Kevin has developed at least 50 varieties over the years.
They also grow garlic and several types of herbs. Squash blossoms are a popular seasonal treat that restaurants enjoy. For a while in the spring they even sell locally-harvested morel mushrooms.
Flavor Country Farms' mushrooms, microgreens, garlic, and herbs can be found at numerous restaurants in the Omaha metro, as well as 712 in Council Bluffs and Pink Poodle in Crescent. In addition to restaurants (their primary customer), several Omaha grocery stores carry their products, including: Hy-Vees at 90th & Center, 180th & Pacific, and 96th & Q in Omaha; Exist Green in Dundee; and Berreras Farms at 194th & F. Additionally, you can find their products at Berreras Farms’ CSA, Iowana Farms’ CSA, and No More Empty Pots. They sometimes have a farm stand at the Casey’s in Crescent on Friday evenings.
They are also considering some on-farm events and are hosting a PFI Field Day this fall, so stay tuned!
Follow Flavor Country Farms on Facebook, Instagram, and their website.