By Caroline Farley

Keith Silva at his Lawa‘i Mushroom Farm

Keith Silva at his Lawa‘i Mushroom Farm

After more than two decades of a close relationship with gourmet mushrooms, a Lawa‘i resident and former restaurant chef turned a unique hobby into a business that just keeps mushrooming.

“I realized I needed to fulfill my passion and make a living out of what I love,” said Keith Silva, owner of Lawa‘i Valley Mushrooms, the only commercial mushroom farm on Kaua‘i, and one of only two in the entire state.

Lawa‘i Valley Mushrooms may be less than two years old, but has already earned a solid reputation. Its initial production has more than quadrupled to roughly 280 pounds a week, which quickly sells out. The next goal is to reach 1,600 pounds per month by the end of the year.

Grey oyster mushrooms

Grey oyster mushrooms

Silva’s long-standing affair with mushrooms started in 1986, while working as an executive chef in Northern California. That was when he learned how to pick dozens of different varieties of gourmet mushrooms. Since then, he researched mushroom foraging and production out of pure curiosity, while continuing to work on the Mainland and then on Kaua‘i, where he was an executive chef for 18 years.

In 2011, Silva leased 4.5 acres in Lawa‘i Valley from his father-in-law, taking over a nursery and fruit-shack business. For him, who firmly believes in sustainability, it was a dream-come-true. With more than 18,000 plants on the property, Silva drastically reduced his grocery bill by growing his own fruits and vegetables.