Five Things You May Not Know About Top Hat Mushrooms

by Gayle Klampe on September 5, 2017

in Featured Member

image of four mushrooms on a table

As one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide, shiitakes are prized for their rich, savory taste and diverse health benefits. This family-owned employer has been growing these specialty mushrooms for over 26 years. Did you know…

  1. Top Hat Mushrooms, Inc. was founded by current owner and CEO, Robin Gillette in 1991. Prior to that, John Gillette Sr., Robin’s father, owned the 200+ acre farm located outside of the small town of Scio, Oregon, situated on the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. From the early 1970’s until 1991 the farm was used to raise hogs. Due to the diminishing hog market conditions in the US, Robin’s father struggled to make ends-meet on the farm and Robin wanted to help and try his hand doing something different with the land and buildings. So, he sold his previous business, an electrical company, to his brother-in-law and purchased the farm from his father. Robin did not have mushroom growing experience, but he had a vision to transform the farm from supplying meat to growing healthy fungi. Through some guidance and mentorship from Dr. Royse at Penn State University, he converted the initial buildings into growing rooms prime for the development of fungi and began learning how to grow shiitake mushrooms.

  2. As the largest organic shiitake grower west of the Mississippi, Top Hat’s growing facilities are continually expanding and now include computer controlled environments to take advantage of the natural outdoor conditions. They are relentless in their drive to improve efficiency while never wavering on their commitment to produce top quality mushrooms 365 days a year for wholesale distribution. Robin’s vision to grow and supply the best mushroom value (fresh, tasty, organic, audited food safety program) to fresh market customers, is steadfast. Through on-going testing, they are constantly striving to learn and then apply that knowledge. They utilize a teamwork model that has developed the business into its current enterprise which provides healthy sustenance to people while improving our planet and ecosystem.

  3. This company is committed to sustainable agriculture by using natural resources wisely. They’ve installed an 88-panel solar grid at their Scio farm and use spent mushroom blocks to produce worms, worm castings and plant-based compost, all of which are used to naturally enrich the Earth. Over time there have been numerous updates on the 200 plus acre farm through internal research, development, and sheer determination and ingenuity. During those early years, the original buildings were constructed from lumber that was logged from the farm itself. To date, there are now three generations living and working on the farm in Scio. Top Hat Mushrooms has expanded to a second farm in Salem, OR that is strategically located nearby the Interstate 5 freeway for quick and convenient distribution of their shiitake product. This allows the company to quickly deliver fresh mushrooms along the West Coast while also sending their product via air freight through Portland International Airport three days a week.

  4. In addition to living and working on the farm the Gillette’s also have fun on the farm. The farm has its own 2900’ grass-strip runway and private airfield registered as Gillette Field. Robin and his son Casey can sometimes be seen flying over the farm in their Cessna airplane. The local community hosts an annual fly-in and dine-in where hundreds of small aircraft utilize the airfield to have a big celebration and eat some of the best chicken around. During hot summer days friends and family often head to the farm because it contains one of the best watering holes for cooling off and swimming in the pristine Thomas Creek.

  5. Developing Top Hat Mushrooms to its current enterprise has been a family affair. Robin’s wife, Carrie, manages the company’s finances and spends a day each week with the packaging team, ensuring quality control of mushrooms prior to distribution. Their son, Casey, has been a huge contributor to the success of the farm since he graduated from college and started working full-time on the farm. Casey is now the Chief Operating Officer and spends much of his time overseeing production, constantly refining their spawn line that is developed in-house. Their daughter, Katie, also works on the farm doing bookkeeping and office administration. She always amazes her co-workers with her ability to juggle raising two beautiful girls and keeping the company straight!

Cascade is pleased to showcase Top Hat Mushrooms, an employer determined to help each other advance through team work.

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