Nathanael Engen, founder of Black Forest Mushrooms, an Everett gourmet mushroom growing operation is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Nathanael Engen, founder of Black Forest Mushrooms, an Everett gourmet mushroom growing operation is an Emerging Leader. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Nathanael Engen: Growing and sharing gourmet mushrooms

More than just providing nutritious food, the owner of Black Forest Mushrooms aims to uplift and educate the community.

This is one of 12 finalists for The Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders awards for 2024. The winner will be named at an event on April 17

Nathanael Engen, 35

Founder, Black Forest Mushrooms

Want to cultivate a healthy community or start a business?

Make a move and don’t be afraid to fail. That is Nathanael Engen’s credo.

“Don’t wait around for a government agency or grant to take action on an issue you care about,” Engen said.

Engen is the founder of Black Forest Mushrooms, an indoor gourmet mushroom farm that opened late last year in downtown Everett.

The 10,000-square-foot facility, which includes 1,500 square feet of retail space, offers locally grown gourmet mushrooms, gifts, books and more.

The mushrooms are cultivated at the facility, inside black canvas grow tents.

Growing them locally in a controlled environment, eliminates air freight emissions, helps fight climate change and strengthens the local food supply, he said.

Opening Black Forest Mushrooms in December was a significant milestone, but Engen wanted to do more than just grow gourmet mushrooms: he wanted to share the bounty with those in need.

In February, he launched “Mush Love.”

For every pound of gourmet mushrooms Black Forest sells, it donates a pound of mushrooms to local food banks. Beneficiaries include the Snohomish and Lake Stevens Community Food Banks, Snohomish Healing Project, Housing Hope, and Hope Creek Charitable Foundation.

“I am committed to creating a business that not only provides nutritious food but also uplifts and educates the community,” he said.

A nominator wrote: “Nathanael is a trail blazer in his industry and a true servant leader!”

Engen values empathy, sustainability and education. “I am determined to face obstacles head-on, whether in building an innovative new company or educating the public about sustainable food sources.”

He encourages other entrepreneurs to muster the confidence and grit to strike out on their own.

If you can’t take a giant leap right away — start small, he said. Engen grew his first crop of mushrooms in a small, two-car garage.

Engen has been an entrepreneur since at least 14, when he started a mowing business.

Last year he took first place in the Veterans Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship, a business plan competition, held at the University of Washington Tacoma and sponsored by HomeStreetBank.

“I envision a future where communities are intimately connected to their food, understanding its journey from farm to fork and recognizing agriculture as a vital component of sustainable living,” Engen said.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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