Family-owned Gem State Mushrooms produces tantalizing crops year-round

click to enlarge Family-owned Gem State Mushrooms produces tantalizing crops year-round
Young Kwak photo
Blue Oyster, Golden Oyster, Lion's Mane and Chestnut mushrooms from Gem State Mushrooms

George Viaud is a guy who got hopelessly lost in a Google search.

"One day, I was just curious: How do they make mushrooms?" Viaud says. "I started looking into it and before you know it — down the rabbit hole. Then I'm like, I think this is something I can get into. But I need help."

Paul Platt is George's next-door neighbor and a vice president at a national solar company with an operations background and a green thumb. He's also George's brother in law.

"Paul's got an amazing ability with things that live and grow," Viaud continues. "So I said, 'Hey Paul, do you want to grow mushrooms?'"

Growing mushrooms sounded like a fun idea to Platt. Then Viaud asked his wife, Jennifer, to join, and Platt asked his wife, Stephanie, to join, and together the two couples founded Gem State Mushrooms in 2019.

Gem State Mushrooms in Coeur d'Alene grows gourmet mushrooms for fine dining and home kitchens alike. The Viauds and Platts are committed to the highest quality "culture to table" produce, while also educating their community about the delightful diversity of edible fungi.

click to enlarge Family-owned Gem State Mushrooms produces tantalizing crops year-round
Young Kwak photo
Table 13 chef de cuisine Rory Allen

Since Gem State Mushrooms are grown indoors in a carefully controlled environment, they can grow and harvest about a dozen varieties of gourmet fungi — from blue, pink and golden oysters to king trumpet and lion's mane — all year round.

Gem State has been featured in classes at The Culinary Stone, showcased at regional culinary festivals like Crave!, plus they've partnered with chefs Caleb Hansen at Terraza and Rory Allen at Table 13 for special paired meals.

"We were hosted at someone's house just to talk about mushrooms," Jennifer says. "They're wanting to know where their food comes from. They really want to meet the farmer and know their practices."

A lot of work goes into "demystifying" mushrooms, which, for how common they are, still seem pretty exotic to many consumers, Paul says.

"They're not animals, they're not plants, so what are they?" George asks. In the four years that he's been growing mushrooms, George hasn't lost his fascination with fungi.

"A pinhead of mycelium, a tiny little sample of mycelium that starts on a petri dish, will yield hundreds if not thousands of pounds of mushrooms," he says. "So what that also means is that if anywhere along with that process, something goes wrong, and you're unaware of it, you won't be successful at the end of the day. It's very humbling. Just when you think you've got things figured out, something will come and get you."

Growing mushrooms is a 24/7 job for George, Jennifer, Stephanie and Paul, on top of their other full-time jobs and families. There are fungi and finances on the line, which might stress other sets of in-laws. But it's "a labor of love," Paul says, in more ways than one.

"We know we have a good time together," Jennifer says. "Stephanie and I think that's like a priority. We're all working together, and you just have to laugh. There are hiccups and there's frustrations and we're humans. But at the end of the day, you have such love for each other, right? At the end of the day, what we're doing is just such a happy, wonderful thing."

Winter CSA boxes are available at gsm.farm/csa/online

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Eliza Billingham

Eliza Billingham is a staff writer covering food, from restaurants and cooking to legislation, agriculture and climate. She joined the Inlander in 2023 after completing a master's degree in journalism from Boston University.