On The Land

27 February, 2024

Business is mushrooming for Tablelands family

WHEN a Tablelands family purchased a mushroom farming operation three years ago, little did they realise the extent of the huge local demand they would cultivate for them.

By Brigitte Daley

Shelley Berry-Porter with some Golden Oyster mushrooms and below, a Shiitake mushroom growing out of a substrate block.
Shelley Berry-Porter with some Golden Oyster mushrooms and below, a Shiitake mushroom growing out of a substrate block.

Golden Oak Produce co-owner Tom O’Connor said his family’s interest in mushrooms created an opportunity to improve the local availability of a wide range of gourmet mushroom varieties, whilst building a strong family farming business at the same time.

“We had a lot to learn about growing mushrooms, but we committed to mastering them and haven't looked back,” Tom said.

A special feature of the business is its monthly farm gate sale day which allows the general public to visit the mushroom farm to buy freshly harvested mushrooms on the first Sunday of every month.

“We love meeting our customers and we offer all of our fresh mushrooms, mushroom compost and ‘Mushroom Grow Blocks’ if you'd like to have a crack at growing them yourself,” he said. 

Tom says it is very common to find mushrooms grown on imported substrate, with unknown contents and treatments.

“We grow all of our mushrooms chemical-free and from hardwood from our local mills,” he said.

“We like people to know exactly where their mushrooms have come from and to know the people who grow them.” 

Golden Oak Produce is transforming the biological waste of other businesses into food, while simultaneously integrating the waste from their own food-growing process into another food production system.

“We took over the farm and, starting from a low base, we have doubled production each year,” Tom said.

“We now send out a few hundred kilograms each week across the Tablelands and to the coast.

“When farming mushrooms it takes very specific parameters to keep them happy and producing, it's surprising how variable mushrooms can be in their growth and the conditions they prefer.” 

Gourmet mushrooms of assorted varieties are grown continuously, providing a diverse selection year-round.

Shiitake, Queensland Oyster, Pink Oyster, Yellow Oyster and Blue Shimeji are grown year-round while Lion's Mane and King Oysters are grown in the cooler months. 

“We have a strong demand across the Tablelands and Cairns for all of our varieties and we have several new varieties people are asking for that we are working towards producing as soon as we can!” Tom said.

“Having Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms year-round is great for us because they offer a wide range of flavours and textures which are available throughout the year."

The delectable gourmet mushrooms each have their own individual flavours. Shiitake is renowned for its strong meaty flavour, while Queensland Oysters are milder and are very versatile, so they can be cooked into a wide range of dishes.

Pink Oysters, when they are fried until crispy and salted, are often said to have a bacon-like flavour.

Yellow Oyster mushrooms are a much softer mushroom with a mild nutty flavour which are great in stir-fries.

“There are so many different flavours in the mushroom kingdom, we'd recommend trying every variety you can get your hands on and you're bound to find some you will love,” Tom said.

Mushrooms all have different nutritional profiles and offer different health benefits.

However, their great attributes include being abundant in antioxidants, a good source of vitamin D and vitamin B, as well as being good for cardiovascular health. Their fibre content is excellent for gut flora and they are beneficial to the immune system. 

“A lot of the nutrients in mushrooms are made much more available to your body by cooking them, so we recommend cooking them thoroughly to get the most out of them, particularly for the firmer varieties like Shiitake,” Tom said. 

There are some recent studies looking at the immune boosting power of Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms and several famous studies using Lion's Mane to treat nerve damage and as a regenerative supplement for dementia patients.

Most recently, the University of Queensland released a paper on the Australian varieties of Lion's Mane showing a strong brain boosting effect.

“It's encouraging that people are paying more attention to mushrooms as food and medicine,” Tom said.

“We're constantly trying new varieties to see what is suitable for our setup and conditions.

“At the moment we are looking forward to offering a few new gourmet varieties and trialling a warm weather Lion's Mane, hopefully this will allow us to offer it year round. 

“We are also trialling several medicinals, including Reishi and Turkey Tail.

“Of course, some of our gourmet mushrooms like Shiitake and Lion's Mane are also used medicinally.

“We're in shops, cafes and restaurants right across the Tablelands, Cairns, Mossman and Port Douglas. You can buy our mushrooms at Atherton IGA, Essence Wholefoods in Mareeba, Foodworks in Yungaburra and Spar in Malanda.

“We keep an up-to-date list on our website so you can find us. If we're not in any of your local shops, you can always ask them to reach out to us!"

Tom said the growth in demand for fresh gourmet mushrooms has surprised everyone in the business.

“We have focused on always providing a quality product and we are being contacted almost every week by new customers looking for fresh mushrooms,” he said.

“We're very proud to be part of the farming community in Far North Queensland, there are a lot of people up here doing great work.

“We think there's a really strong future in farming in the Far North and it's great to work alongside people who are making that future a reality.”

For further information contact, the farm on 4095 0123, go to or Golden Oak Produce Facebook.

gop—-single-mushroom.jpg Ashleigh Short inspects growing Shiitake mushrooms.
Ashleigh Short inspects growing Shiitake mushrooms.

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