Board allows mushroom farm to keep composting

July 24, 2002


The Petaluma Mushroom Farm won't have to shut down its foul-smelling
composting operation while it tries to open a new site in another county,
the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.

On a 3-0 vote, the board gave the farm through Dec. 31 to relocate the
composting operation.

Farm operators say they have found a new location in Colusa County, but
need more time to make the move.

The board's decision to extend the deadline angered nearby residents,
who said the odor is so repulsive at times it has to be included in home
disclosure forms when selling property.

Opponents asked supervisors to stand by a previous July 1 deadline, the
third deadline the farm has missed since 2000.

"I think the mushroom farm has played you like a violin," said Matilda
Peterson, who has lived in the rural west Petaluma neighborhood since

Supervisors said they didn't want to close the composting operation
without a replacement because it would put the mushroom farm out of
business and jeopardize 80 jobs.

The farm said it will keep its mushroom-growing operation on Thompson
Lane, where it produces 5 million pounds of mushrooms and brings in
$4.5 million in annual revenue.

The composting operation will move to Colusa County along with a
planned expansion to more than double mushroom production.

Supervisor Mike Kerns, who represents the area, said the stench is bad
only on occasion. But he warned the operators that he didn't want to see
them back in six months asking for another extension.

Opponents have been critical of the farm in the past for water quality
violations and heavy use of pesticides. They were skeptical about the
farm's ability to meet the deadline.

"I'm alarmed the Board of Supervisors would support a scofflaw business
over individual property owners' rights and the environment, because
that's what they just did," said one of about 100 residents
who formed the Northwest Petaluma Rural Alliance.

The mushroom farm has twice abandoned efforts to relocate its
composting operation and build an additional growing facility in Sonoma

It dropped a site on Middle Two Rock Road west of Petaluma because
of neighborhood opposition and gave up on a site near Bloomfield where
the farm was facing a lawsuit.

Eric Koenigshofer, the farm's attorney, said it will cost half as much to
build the new facility and expand in Colusa County than it would be on
the property near Bloomfield. The farm will truck compost from Colusa to
Thompson Lane, a trip of two or three hours, he said.

In a related action, the board also voted 3-0, with Supervisor Paul Kelley
absent, to formally revoke the use permit for the now-abandoned site
near Bloomfield.

You can reach Staff Writer Tobias Young at 762-9498 or

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