Urban Valley was inspired in early 2021 by Joel, a hospitality veteran who had managed at some of Queensland's best restaurants including Wasabi, Arc, Yacht Club Hamilton Island and Qualia, and Rachel, who was working in fruit and veg distribution at Brisbane Markets in Rocklea, also with a hospitality background, as well as a masters degree in molecular genetics. After Covid, as many of us did at the time, they thought about doing something different and taking a more radical career move. As a fruit and veg supplier, Rachel heard the top chefs in Brisbane asking, "where's the good mushrooms?" That's because the mushrooms which have historically been available at the market have been the ones you're familiar with at the grocer - punnets wrapped in plastic, sweating, potentially old and almost always of imported origin. As the Brisbane dining scene had been growing rapidly over the very recent years, the demands for quality, unique, local produce also increased. So with extensive hospitality knowledge, passion for quality food, love of Brisbane's dining boom, experience in lab technique and perhaps a bit of that eccentric post Covid ambition, the concept for Urban Valley was born.
The great thing about farming gourmet mushrooms is that they're grown completely indoors in a controlled environment so you don't need land or sunshine or seasons. You could grow these mushrooms essentially anywhere in a vertical farming set up, on racks inside specialized coolrooms. The other convenient feature about farming these mushrooms is that they're wood loving and need to be grown in a sterile environment. That means there's no unpleasant smells from a compost based substrate, unlike button mushroom farming. With Joel and Rachel living in Fortitude Valley, they believed in the area and it was also where the nightlife and restaurants were thriving so if these gourmet mushrooms could be grown anywhere, why wouldn't the farm be based in the heart of it all? The Valley is also sadly home to many long empty properties, unused for years as they are boarded up and awaiting some future property development that never seems to come. Seeing such potential seemed like a waste of an activated area, however they were able to put one of those empty spaces to very good use as the home of Urban Valley, producing fresh mushrooms for chefs throughout Brisbane and greater south East Queensland. Being so local was important when Urban Valley was established because it also allows them to host tours through the farm, educate chefs or consumers and hold special events to interact with the community. Over the last couple years they've hosted a series of intimate chef's table dinners at the farm in which guests tour the facility and learn about how mushrooms are made before enjoying a menu curated in collaboration with a local restaurant. "I suppose at the end of the day we come from hospitality so it's in our nature to want to share what we do and educate the community about these delicious mushrooms" says Joel. "We want people to reimagine where a farm could be. It's such a cool feeling to see people's faces turn from disbelief to excited curiosity when we tell them that yes, there is an actual farm near Brunswick St Mall!"
At the farm, Joel and Rachel handle the entire life cycle and growing process of the mycelium from cloning to growing fruiting bodies. This gives control at every step of production so you know how the produce is being grown and what goes into it. Urban Valley is proud to use 100% Australian ingredients for the substrate, which is made of agricultural byproducts. This is important for sustainability and because so much of the industry relies so heavily on imports. Quality local mushrooms are simply better for you and the environment. In the end, the used substrate is even recycled in local gardens from New Farm State School to Howard Smith Wharves.
Urban Valley grows a rotating variety of gourmet mushrooms that change with the seasons including a selection of oysters, shimeji, lions mane, coral tooth, pioppino, chestnut, shiitake, black pearl and golden enoki. The fresh mushrooms are supplied to restaurants, cafes and specialty grocers such as Harris Farm in South East Queensland.
We hope you enjoy and thank you for supporting local!
Rachel & Joel