In early 2020, Tivoli Mushrooms, located about 100 miles north of New York City, was pumping out nearly 2,000 pounds of fresh mushrooms each week at its urban mushroom farm. The business, in just its second year of existence, was booming.

“I built the demand first by cherry-picking the best mushrooms I could get and then I would flip them,” he said.

“Always have five months of operating capital, just at a minimum,” he says.

“Never go below it, because sh*t comes out of nowhere. Being a successful farm, moving product, making money, we still almost went out of business like three times with me not taking any money from it. The accounting part of it, besides the growing part of it, is a big one.”

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a community to support a business.

Tivoli Mushrooms survived COVID-19 with the help of the local community. Home food delivery companies also upped their orders and kept Tivoli afloat.

“It’s mother nature,” Gilroy said. “You have to just get on board and roll with it.”

Gilroy says he was grateful for his executive chef position and the income it provided at that time, but running an urban mushroom farm while holding down a second job can be both a blessing and a curse.

Gilroy says he sometimes wishes the business were still small, with less stress, overhead costs — in some months, they can run up to $20,000 — more time, and perhaps a better quality of life.

“I think that for me it was like the ego pride thing got in the way and it was like ‘We’re going to expand, we’re going to do all our own colonization, we’re going to run 150 blocks a week out of that pasteurizer,’” Gilroy said.

“What’s happened is now we have two full-time employees and we’re only fruiting a few hundred pounds more because of the climate [business down due to COIVD-19] that we’re in right now. This constant growth thing, it is a double-edged sword.”

That’s not to say Gilroy regrets his decisions.

“Do it, 100%,” he says. “Stay small as long as you can and just enjoy it. There’s a need for it. Local small farms are going to be the ones that really do well. It’s the big farms…there’s no more room for that anymore.”

This content was originally published here.

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