Business is Mushrooming at Hill's Morels
La Crosse Tribune - BY Autumn Grooms
Dandelion heads are opening dotting local fields - and lilac bushes are beginning to share their sweet scent. And foggy mornings and warm days are making the morel mushrooms of the area pop their yellow and gray heads through soil often richened by dying Elm trees. Shroomers are tromping through tall grass and dodging cow pies in search of the woodland treat that tastes great sautéed in butter.
For those willing to share their finds, Hill's Morel Mushrooms is open for business..
The La Crescent business, owned by Nancy Hill, operates out of space leased at Leidel's Apple Stand on Hwy. 16, which is operated by Bernie Buehler. There also are more than a half dozen buying stations throughout the Midwest.
Sellers arrive with their mushrooms, keeping secret where the mushrooms were found.And the folks at Hill's Morel Mushrooms sort through them, looking for false morels and dirty bottoms. If the mushrooms check out, a purchase is made.
The wholesale business then turns around and sells the mushrooms to its buyers, including restaurants, gourmet markets and traditional food stores, Hill said. "I even sell to chefs and mushroom festivals," she said.
La Crosse Tribune - Sunday, May 07, 2006
'Mushroom Lady' racing to fill morel orders
Omaha World Herald - BY PAUL HAMMEL (WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER)
The "Mushroom Lady" is singing the blues.
This spring's cold snap has, so far, depressed the morel mushroom crop in Nebraska, and Nancy Hill has been wheeling her Ford van across the state in a scramble to locate private pickers who've found the delicacy. Hill's anxiety, and her highly organized commercial network, is an illustration that mushroom hunting can be more than a walk in the woods.
The elusive morel is a growing cash crop in several states, including Nebraska and Iowa, where the wild fungi are found. Hill said her certification from Minnesota provides assurance that the mushrooms she sells have been properly stored and inspected to remove poor quality or "false" morels. Hill founded her business in 1985 in La Crescent, Minn., a Mississippi River town, after discovering that morels sold by her son were fetching a pretty penny.
"I don't have enough mushrooms," said Hill, as she wheeled her van eastward. "I feel bad for my customers. They're all pumped up for this, and it isn't happening."
Omaha World Herald- Sunday, May 07, 2007
Wild Mushrooms usher in spring
Houston County News - By Paul Ryan
When you think of food grown in La Crescent, your first thought will likely be apples, but the less-publicized business of selling mushrooms is also huge. Last year, Hill’s Morel Mushrooms shipped 10,800 pounds of mushrooms across the country. Quite an amount, considering that mushrooms season only lasts four weeks.
Nancy Hill is the backbone of the mushroom operation. She buys from mushroom pickers, packages them with the help of Leidel’s Orchard, and ships them to undisclosed locations. Hill won’t tell where she ships the mushrooms. The location of her 26 biggest customers, plus all the restaurants she sells to, is top secret. “It’s very secret,” said Hill. “The pickers are so conscientious about where they get them from. People ask where I sell them, I say, ‘show me your spot in the woods, and I’ll tell you where I sell them.’ It’s really top secret.”
You have to ship the mushrooms where they don’t grow, says Hill, and the good spots to find sellers are difficult to find. If her competitors knew, she might start losing those good spots. Every year she sends postcards to remind her 275 pickers, and when she buys them, neither side asks questions.
However Hill was willing to tell one story about where her mushrooms ended up. One day she turned on her TV and saw one of her signature mushroom boxes sitting in the background on an episode of NBC’s The Today Show. Al Roker was trading places with a chef at Danielle’s, an upscale restaurant in New York, and he was using Hill’s mushrooms. “I think they were using La Crescent mushrooms, too,” said Hill. “I know because they were small, and that was at a time when La Crescent’s mushrooms were just getting started.”
When Hill’s Morel Mushrooms started in the early 1980’s, it wasn’t even a business. Hill’s son Mark was a mushroom picker, selling them for a dollar or two per pound. One year, when Mark was in college, he didn’t return to sell his mushrooms to his normal buyer, so Nancy had to sell them herself. “I was upset that he had all these mushrooms in my fridge,” said Hill. “So I had to do it, I made $65, and that’s when the light bulb came on.”
Houston County News – May 5th 2005