Fresh From the Farmer: Lawrence Zimmermann of Highline Mushrooms

Do you know where your fresh Canadian mushrooms come from?

In this new Blog Feature we will get to know the family farmers who grow your mushrooms as they tell you the story of their farms, explain the growing process, address common myths, and share their favourite mushroom recipes.

Lawrence Zimmermann of Highline Mushrooms, Leamington, Ontario

1. What is your name & farm name?
Lawrence, and my farm name is Highline Mushrooms.

2. Where are you located?
We actually have a few farms across Ontario. Two in Leamington, Ontario, one in Kingsville, Ontario, and one in Wellington, Ontario. We also have a distribution centre based in Montreal, Quebec.

3. Tell us about your farms.
Highline Mushrooms is a family company, founded in 1961 by Dr. Murray O’Neil. In 1961, a small eight-room structure was built at what is now Leamington’s East Farm. From 1968 – 1980, this farm was expanded a total of. In 1985, a second farm was built near the original Leamington East Farm, this came to be the most advanced mushroom farm in North America.
In 1990, an opportunity arose to acquire an existing farm in picturesque Prince Edward County. This farm became Highline’s Wellington Farm. And then in 2009, Highline acquired a modern, Dutch-style farm located in Kingsville, Ontario, approximately 13 kilometres from the Leamington farms.

4. How long have you been a mushroom farmer?
My parents have been in the business for over 50 years, and I have been with Highline for 47 years. Actually the founder of Highline Mushrooms was my delivering doctor at my birth, so I have a very close connection with the company.

I have been directly involved in the day to day operations of growing the mushroom at Highline for over 30 years, so it has very much become a part of my life. In fact, my son just started a summer job here at Highline, so you can see that the farm is very close to our family.

5. What is your favourite mushroom recipe?
My favourite mushroom recipe happens to be with portabella mushrooms. It is very simple, take a portabella mushroom and remove the stem, rinse the mushroom under cold running water on both sides, and then I marinate it with either Italian salad dressing or roasted red pepper. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minuntes, and then just throw it on the grill, gills up for about 7 minutes on one side and the 5-6 on the other. It’s wonderful it has the texture of being a meat like a steak, but the flavour of the mushroom and the salad dressing is just wonderful!

6. Any community “Good News” stories.
At Highline Mushrooms we pride ourselves on being a family run company, and all of our associates are part of our family, and community of very important to us.
In 2004 we donated a 7 acre woodlot that has some unique forest, and we donated that to the Essex Region Conservation Authority.

We helped fund the parking lot for people to park in, and the gravel trail. It’s enjoyed by everyone in the area.

A few years ago in Leamington we donated a Zamboni for resurfacing the ice at the local arena. At our farm in Prince Edward County we donated funds to help the construction of a community centre, and most recently in the town of our newest farm, Kingsville, we’ve help fund a local library. We are very proud of all those accomplishments.

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