Eco-friendly business thriving on home-grown mushrooms

Anton Den Engelse, right, picking up the eco award: Picture: Jeff Taylor

Anton Den Engelse, right, picking up the eco award: Picture: Jeff Taylor - Credit: Archant

Deep in the heart of rural north Norfolk a small business is making waves after 15 years of producing exotic Shiitake mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms. Picture: courtesy of Woodfruits of Norfolk

Shiitake mushrooms. Picture: courtesy of Woodfruits of Norfolk - Credit: courtesy of Woodfruits of Norfolk

Woodfruits in Corpusty, in the Bure Valley, is run by Anton Den Engelse and his wife Vicky Riches and supplies shops and the better restaurants over a 15-mile radius.

Mr Den Engelse, 52, said: 'It makes sense to ourselves, local pubs, shops and restaurants, to grow mushrooms locally, rather than to have to import them from Holland, France, or even China.'

The business was started on neglected marginal land, next to the disused M & GN Railway line, which has a natural micro-climate conducive to wild mushrooms.

Now thriving and completely carbon neutral, the business, which is very much part of the community, has its own solar-based power supply, and harvests rainwater for the process and biomass for the heating system.

The firm has just won best eco-food producer in the Norwich and Norfolk Eco Awards, which celebrate outstanding commitment to sustainability and environmental excellence across the county.

But Mr Den Engelse, 52, said: 'It's been a long journey. It was difficult finding a piece of land and then the planning process was difficult.

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'We started off quite small, growing mushrooms on logs.

'We have two daughters and we just wanted a viable, sustainable business that would provide for a family of four.

'Norfolk is a bit of a dormitory county with so many second homes and we were looking for a way to stay in our home county, at limited environmental cost. It's important to encourage small local supplies of products and services – to balance the dormitory effect with live work units.

'And then in 2000, we read a magazine article about growing shiitake mushrooms in Wales, and it went from there.

'It would be nice to pass on the business to our daughters and leave a business that is not an environmental millstone.'

The couple are both Norfolk born-and-bred. He went to Easton College to study agriculture manufacturing. Prior to setting up his own business he worked in the farming industry.

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