Petaluma Mushroom may abandon Sonoma County

December 21, 2002


The Petaluma Mushroom Farm, a source of good mushrooms but bad smells
that have fermented years of discontent among its residential neighbors,
may close its operations entirely.

Neither farm officials nor their attorney responded to telephone inquiries
Friday, but Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Kerns said the farm is preparing
to move to the Sacramento Valley.

"They're moving the whole operation," said Kerns, whose district includes the
farm. "That's my understanding: They will not be doing any mushroom
business in Petaluma."

The mushroom farm is under a Dec. 31 deadline to move its composting
operation, and it has started construction on a new plant in Colusa County.

The owner of the farm, Dave Cerini, previously said he'd keep the growing
operations in Petaluma.

It remains uncertain if the mushroom farm will meet its deadline, now only
10 days away.

But now, Kerns said, Cerini may move the entire 80-employee business to
Colusa and try to develop a new business at the Thompson Lane property
west of Petaluma.

The farm for years has battled with neighbors over the pungent odors that
emanate from the outdoor cultivation of compost that is used in the
mushroom-growing operation.

After being fined for water quality violations and missing county deadlines for
moving the compost operation, the company found a new location to make
compost in an industrial park in Colusa.

At the time, they said they would continue growing mushrooms on Thompson
Lane, making the compost in Colusa and trucking it to Petaluma.

They also planned to expand their operation in Colusa, doubling the annual 5
million pounds of mushrooms grown in Petaluma and the company's
estimated $4.5 million in annual revenue.

Colusa County building official Jim Little said it appears the move is a long
way off. "Trying to do a project in the middle of winter is pretty tough," he

No plans have been turned in for any facilities, but a building permit has
been granted for a concrete slab.

Little said before any composting could be done, the farm would have to
develop a means of treating the manure-tainted runoff.

However, despite some opposition from nearby businesses worried about
drifting odors and pests, Little said the project requires no other public
review and is a permitted use.

Petaluma neighbors -- about 100 of whom have been battling the farm and
its odors for up to two decades -- hope the compost will be gone come New
Year's Day.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," a neighbor said. "Hopefully, this time
they can meet a deadline. We're not holding our breaths; we're taking a
wait-and-see attitude."

The county's Permit and Resource Management Department said it won't
immediately shut down the farm if it misses the deadline.

"We'd have to gather our lawyers and sort it out, but I don't think it will come
to that," said Pete Parkinson, the county planning director.

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

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