By: Tony Huey
After Josh brought the idea of starting this “compound” and truffle farm to me, I was super excited. I loved food, I always ordered the truffle parmesan popcorn when I went to the Alamo Drafthouse to watch movies, and the idea of living with my friends was something I dreamed of as a kid. There was so much to be excited about, BUT what are truffles?
Like most of you, I had heard of chocolate truffles, but this was obviously not it. The truffle popcorn was awesome and such a crazy flavor, but what gave it that flavor? Again, what are truffles?
My research began. I had no idea where to start, so like we tend to do in this technology age, I turned to the internet. I didn’t search, “what are truffles,” but ultimately, I would discover they were a subterranean fungus that grew on the roots of trees. Instead, my first thought, being a graduate of the Florida State University College of Business, was to search for “truffle supply and demand.” After hours of going down a rabbit hole, with little to no information, I finally came across a webpage with graphs showing the worldwide supply of truffles declining year-over-year and decade-over-decade. This was intriguing.
This information was so hard to find, but as I dug deeper (no pun intended), I found that for at least 100 years the decline in production had remained steady and significant. I remember reading that some production had declined by as much as 90%. Some of the main reasons for this decline were due to the deforestation, development of land, climate changes, and the general loss of knowledge from previous generations. This was all making sense, and it sounded like Josh was onto something.
World population was on the rise, and we can see in our own backyards that the urban sprawl is real. Thus, forest land and areas where truffles were be harvested and foraged was being destroyed. Being an underground fungus, no one had any idea that they were massacring the production of this rare delicacy.
Feeding the issue of deforestation, was the loss of knowledge of these lands due to the world wars. The knowledge of the truffle bearing forests was held secret by truffle hunters, as they didn’t want word to get out and others to steal their harvests and livelihood. When these truffle hunters went off to war and didn’t make it back, the knowledge was taken to the grave, and the only inheritance was the land. Ultimately, these “diamond of the kitchen” mines would turn into homes, cities, and suburban areas of development, and if they were fortunate enough to remain forest land, we’d have to hope that another truffle hunter would discover the underground fruits of mother nature.
Other contributing factors to this decline in production were that the climate was getting warmer and there was less precipitation. In the past, those with knowledge of truffles correlated the summer storms with lightening and rain to higher yields of truffles later that year. Since rainfall had decreased and warmer weather seemed to become more common, scientists began believing that was playing a role in the decrease of production. All of these factors had contributed to the downslope of truffle production.
When it came to demand of truffles, again it was hard to find much information. However, I did come across a couple websites showing a projection of increased demand in the next 10, 20, and 30 years. This made sense to me. From the time I graduated college in 2009, and moved to Las Vegas, fusion and farm to table restaurants were becoming ever more popular. I had the chance to experience exquisite food in all my stops from Las Vegas to Colorado to Alaska and even in Lubbock, Texas, and I could see these being the types of places who would use truffles in the future.
At this point, I knew truffle farming was in my future, so I returned Josh’s call and told him I was down. Josh told me to read up and gave me some book recommendations. That’s where the next chapter would start.