David Sparks of Guided By Mushrooms
Photo: Guided By Mushrooms
Photo: Guided By Mushrooms

The story behind Guided by Mushrooms, found on Dayton menus and soon at 2nd Street Market 

“They are super fresh and grown with love,” business owner says.

No, they are not magic mushrooms. But the fungus that grows on a Clayton couple’s farm is casting a spell on diners around the region. 

Ba dum tss!

Guided By Mushrooms, a company that produces about about 5,200 pounds of mushrooms annually, launched in the winter of 2018 on David and Audra Sparks’ six-acre farm.

“It is very much geek farming,” Sparks said, explaining that all farms have some level of geekiness.

Audra Sparks’ brother, Michael Goldstick, is also a partner in the growing business. 

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WHERE CAN THEY BE FOUND

The company’s seasonally changing mushrooms and mushroom products can be found on the menus of Lily’s Bistro, Winds Cafe, Grist, Meadowark and Corner Kitchen in the Dayton area and Stella Bleu Bistro in Springfield.

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Guided By Mushrooms, a name that David Sparks picked as a humorous play on the band name Guided By Voices, also counts Branch, Bouquet Restaurant, Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, Pleasantry and Red Roost Tavern in the Cincinnati area among its clients. 

“I thought it was catchy,” he said of the name. 

Guided By Mushrooms will sell mushrooms and a list of mushroom products that include spiced powders during pop-ups 8 a.m. to 3 p.m Saturday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at the 2nd Street Market, 600 E. Second St. in downtown Dayton. 

“They are gourmet varieties that are not widely available.  They are directly from a local farm. They don’t go on a giant truck,” Sparks said. “They are super fresh and grown with love.” 

Depending on what’s in season, the company’s offerings have included Italian oyster, chestnut, lion mane, golden oyster, snow oyster and grey dove oyster mushrooms. 

Lily’s has featured a lion mane oyster sandwich “that people have gone crazy for,” Sparks said. 

“They taste like lobster,” he added.  

MORE THAN JUST MUSHROOMS 

Guided by Mushrooms allows people to sponsor mushrooms for the House of Bread, a nonprofit that provides hot meals to the needy daily. A pound of mushrooms can be sponsored for $10. 

Guided By Mushrooms recently partnered with the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions in Yellow Springs and hopes to use mushrooms to help farmland decimated by mono-agriculture.

WHY MUSHROOMS? 

Sparks, a nature lover, said he started the business after feeling weighed down by his website development business, Buzzwad.com.  

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“I wanted to do something more organic than computers,” he said. “Gourmet mushrooms is one of the niches a small guy can compete in.”

HOW ARE THE MUSHROOMS GROWN?

Sparks said mushrooms, especially gourmet types, must be handled with more care than most larger operations are willing to give.

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“They just look beaten to death by the time they get to their customers,” he said. 

Sparks uses the master mix approach, growing his mushrooms on soy bean hulls and sawdust.

“Mushrooms love it,” he said. “It has a really good yield.” 

The mushrooms are grown in a sterilized environment before being moved to a fruiting chamber greenhouse. 

The company has come a long way in its brief history. 

 “When I first started doing it, it was much more low tech,” Sparks said. 

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