In early 2020, Cathy was at a conference in Seattle when the nation's first COVID outbreak occurred there. The conference ended early and the participants scrambled to find flights out, afraid that the airport would be locked down.
Her job at that time was with a biology supply company, designing "plug-and-play" labs and teaching content, and working with college professors to help them design and set up online courses with biology labs. There's been a move toward more online course availability in the last few years, but when everything went online due to the pandemic, she suddenly became a very, very in-demand person.
Borrowed Land Farm's mushroom sales, on the other hand, ground to a screeching halt. Every single restaurant we worked with either shut down or went to a basic menu, pickup-only model, and none of those basic menus relied on gourmet mushrooms. We still kept up with our farmers market customers, but it was a fraction of where our sales been at. Time to shift gears.
For the previous couple of years we had been selling spawn and home fruiting blocks locally, and had developed relationships with a few mushroom farmers, producing the fruiting blocks that they were using on their farms. We decided to redirect our focus in that direction, leaning into our experience in lab work, producing technically-demanding and specialty equipment-dependent products for home and commercial growers who don't have our same background or equipment.
At the same time, we decided to get USDA Organic certified so that we could meet the needs of any growers, a decision that brings with it a significant expense and effort, but ultimately is important for our business. As I write this, we are two days past the farm inspection for our third year recertification with Natural Food Certifiers, who have been great to work with.
Things were dramatically changed from our early days, but more big changes were on the horizon.