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Vol.18, no.1
February/March 2015


The Fung Guy 
Story By: Larry Lieberman
Photos By: Kyle Rothenborg

“Look at the gills,” says Small Kine Farm proprietor Fung Yang, turning over a hefty specimen to reveal its soft, pink underside. “Most people think they’re supposed to be black because that’s what you usually see in the stores, but when they’re really fresh, they’re flesh-colored. And when you cook them the flavor is amazing.”

Small Kine Farm, O‘ahu’s only portabella mushroom grower, has been supplying fresh, 
certified organic mushrooms to specialty grocers and local restaurants since 2008. But Yang never intended to be a mushroom farmer. He wanted to find something productive to do with the waste he collected through his other company, O‘ahu Community Recycling. After studying the refuse carefully, even going on a few dumpster dives, he concluded that the bulk of the trash was green waste and that it could be repurposed as fertilizer. With so much of the 
Islands’ food being imported from the Mainland—including millions of dollars’ worth of mushrooms each year and no local source for fresh portabellas—Yang saw an opportunity. 

Instead of filling up the dump, Yang’s crew processes three to five tons of green waste about every three weeks at Small Kine Farm, which is located down a muddy dirt road deep in the heart of Waimanalo farm country. The waste creates a nutrient-rich, heat-pasteurized compost that forms the perfect substrate for growing top-quality mushrooms. “There’s zero waste!” he beams, explaining his recycling process that yields gigantic, meaty portabellas, along with their smaller siblings, crispy brown crimini button mushrooms. The firm, bite-size buttons yield nutty flavors with a well-defined texture.

Yang’s proud of his portabellas, and just as proud that the only inputs are organic waste products, mycelium spores, water and the electricity needed to run chillers and pumps (which he’ll eventually generate with solar panels). The only outputs are mushrooms and nutrient-rich soil that he distributes to other farmers. With Yang’s growing techniques, the portabellas can become gargantuan. His largest mushroom yet weighed in at a whopping pound and a half—not bad for a small-kine farm.