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Meet Carmen Adriana Rodriguez of South Florida Fungi in Kendall

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carmen Adriana Rodriguez.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My mother and I migrated from Lima, Peru when I was 7 years old to look for a better future. I am now 31 years old but stay rooted in my Peruvian culture. I was accepted into Florida International University, majoring in Environmental science, and in the AgroEcology program where I was awarded a USDA (Department of Agriculture) Scholarship to work on agricultural research. I surveyed a beautiful piece of land called possum trot, with farmer Robert Barnum, where we looked at the various aspects (age, health condition, height, width, etc.) of tropical fruit trees present on his 40 acres piece of land. This data established a better understanding (For the University) of the flora, for future research projects. I was able to present and discuss my findings of this Agroforestry system in various conferences. Additionally, I received a first-generation scholarship, for being the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s.

I met my now husband in an AgroEcology class and we knew our passions would grow into a business. In 2013, I interned for IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) in Costa Rica, developing an online course in Permaculture, which was released to all their Latin American offices for farmer outreach programs. I graduated upon arrival back to the states. I have been given many names – the girl with the pig (my pet pig), dog rescuer, but most recently referred to as the mushroom lady (which has been my favorite)- by Cristina Ivory from Angry Booch.

I got a job with Fresh king as a broker, importing and exporting agricultural goods. In 2015, I began to work with the USDA (Department of Agriculture) assisting local farmers and beginning farmers with their farm enterprise. Me and my husband’s combination of USDA experience behind us, combined with our passion for Agriculture is what led us to experiment with mushrooms.

I am a BIG fan of mushrooms. Not just for culinary purposes but also for medicinal purposes. Did you know that Reishi mushrooms have been found to prevent tumor growth and cancer? This mushroom improves liver function, fights allergies and asthma, helps balance hormones and fights diabetes, promotes heart health and balances blood pressure, and so much more. It has been used in Asia for more than 4,000 years and referred to as the “mushroom of immortality”. I encourage everyone to do basic research and learn on their own the benefits of mushrooms.

South Florida Fungi specializes in oyster mushrooms such as pink oysters, Phoenix oysters, blue oysters, pearl oyster, and king oysters. We continue to experiment with new kinds of mushrooms such as the famous reishi, pippino, chestnut, lion’s mane, and more. We strive to grow the best quality gourmet mushrooms in a sustainable and organic matter while making it available to the local community. Here at South Florida Fungi, we believe that everyone should have access to gourmet mushrooms AND the education behind it. We’re obsessed with the health benefits for immunity, energy, and longevity that have been studied for centuries, and want to spread the word of FUNGI to our local community. At this time, we do not do farm tours but hope to do so in the future. This journey is just starting for me, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I have been blessed to meet other women in the industry, who have followed their dreams of transforming their small ventures, into a full-on productive business. I am inspired by the people I meet, who share the vision of sustainable and local agriculture, and by those chefs who support this goal. The chefs, the customers, they are what shape our industry. Consumers have the power, and I invite everyone to shop local, meet your farmers, and most importantly, learn where your food comes from.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road. We have invested our savings, our time, our sweat into this business. Anyone in agriculture will tell you, it is not an easy road. But, it is part of the journey. With every obstacle, we truly get better. In a way, we have no choice. If we are not successful in growing a particular mushroom, we keep trying until we get it. It is a fairly new industry in the United States, so there is not a lot of data. We get educated through books, videos, experiments, research, and mostly, trial and error. This is a very labor-intensive operation, but we wouldn’t change it for anything.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We specialize in oyster mushrooms – pink, blue, Phoenix, pearl, and king. We also grow Reishi and Lion’s mane. I assist my husband who is the main grower, in all production functions of the operation. I also manage sales and deliveries. What sets us apart from other companies is our experience and passion for agriculture. We look to reuse waste products that otherwise would end up in the landfill, as our growing media, and continue to search for innovative ways to become even more sustainable.

As we continue to grow, I am incorporating the outreach aspect of our business. It is important to me, that we educate the community about the health benefits of mushrooms. From school children to adults, mushroom is underrated.

I am SO proud of how far we have become, of how this business venture has brought my husband, myself, and our friend who works with us, much closer together. I am proud of our struggles and our positivity. This is only the beginning, and the journey will continue.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I dreamed of being a veterinarian. I volunteered at different offices and always had a pet by my side. today, I have a dog, a pet pig, 2 chickens, and a tortoise. I am an advocate for animals rights and foster dogs when possible.

I also grew up growing plants. Even through college, I used to grow sweet potatoes in pots, on my apartment balcony. I never thought that my hobby could become my major in college, and a career thereafter. I love the outdoors and doing outdoor activities such as fishing, skiing, diving, and hiking. I wait for the cool weather to go camping. My happiest moments are outdoors, and I feel a tremendous pull to nature. I like to do yoga, meditate, and grow my own food.

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