A mushroom grower became the “Farmer of the Year” in Ternopil Region. Interview with Yevhen Salovskyi from “Fungi Farm”

“Fungi Farm” is a large family farm in the west of Ukraine. Yaroslav Salovskyi, the father, started the mushroom business. Now the whole family works in the business – the spouse of founders and two sons. “Our father – the main startuper, and my mother – the main technologist,” says the eldest son Yevhen. The second son, Volodymyr, deals with local markets and the technical part of production.

In Ternopil Region, “Fungi Farm” is TOP-1, and in Western Ukraine – TOP-3. The farm has been operating for almost two decades. Now the Salovskyi family has 26 growing chambers of 280 sq.m. each. In total, it is 7000 sq.m. White and brown champignons are grown. “Why brown? Because I love them,” Yevhen simply answers.

Yevhen Salovskyi recently received the title of “Farmer of the Year” at the “Pride of Ternopil” television award, which has been held by local TV channels “INTB” and “Ternopil 1” for the second year in a row.

The UMDIS agency spoke with Yevhen about how significant it is for the industry that a mushroom grower is recognized as the farmer of the year at the prestigious TV award.

- Mr. Yevhen, how is the day?

- At work, we work intensively. Today is Baptism, so we want to let people go early to celebrate with family.

- I know that your farm is an example of a family business. Is it true that your father started this business?

- The father Yaroslav saw the mushroom business in a dream. He brought fruits and vegetables from Poland to Ukraine and started buying mushrooms. The first time they saw them, they didn’t know what to do with them. I remember that they took a heap to the car: white champignons were taken from Poland, and they arrived black. We understood that we are doing something wrong. They started to study. The Pole, from whom my father bought mushrooms, invited him to visit. Father saw greenhouses once, and he began to dream about them. One night, the next... Befriended with that mushroom grower. Once a Pole said: “Sooner or later the borders will be closed and you won’t be able to travel anymore. Let me teach you how to build your own greenhouse”

- Did the Polish experience help?

- Yes, it helped. We also have a relative who knew engineering and construction. They joined it - built the first 4 cameras. It was in 2007, before the crisis. They had a shop then. This niche was being taken over by supermarkets, so a decision had to be made as to what to do next. Father said: we are selling the store, taking a loan - investing in mushroom growing. It is said that when we look to the future, there are two paths before every decision. And when you look at the past, there is only one path – the one you chose. Now I believe that the decision to go into mushroom growing was the right one.


- You know, I was once asked about dreams. I replied that I wanted 100 cameras. And later I realized that it’s not about quantity. You need to have a strong brand and bring benefits to consumers, says Yevhen.

- As for the brand, we are watching how you started to manage your social networks in a cool way.

- At the beginning of war, a friend IT-specialist came to me from Kyiv. And I “took it in my head” that I had to advertise mushrooms. If you follow us, you will see that champignons began to be actively popularized in the last year. At the same time, we promote and highlight the Fungi Farm brand. We do it locally, in our region. We started with social networks. I would like to note that after the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the enemy in Ukraine, our local bloggers, TV channels and famous people rallied and began to support local businesses. That is, those people who develop the economy. We were the first to be noticed by food bloggers from the “Food of Faine Misto” project, who came to us for production. Later, other media took up the initiative. Currently, we constantly agree to stories on television, participate in cooking shows, maintain company accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram. Here we did what the association should do throughout Ukraine. Minimal resources and smart investment.

- It is expensive? Do you see the investment in promotion paying off?

- As I have already said, in Ternopil the media and blogging spheres are trying to support the local producer during the war. Even advertising prices have become loyal. Thanks to such cooperation, the media market has become much more accessible. For example, together with the local TV channels “Ternopil 1” and “INTB” we launched a new project “Be Careful, Delicious!”. They have already filmed 12 programs about what dishes you can cook with champignons. We have now become the largest producer in the region, so the demand for mushrooms will, of course, affect us.

- How did you decide to participate in the “Pride of Ternopil” competition?

- One of the television workers, whom we met while filming the programs, nominated us for the “Farmer of the Year” award of the “Pride of Ternopil” TV award. At first, I was skeptical, but then I found out that we won. The audience and the jury liked us, because before us in this nomination, everyone was engaged in grain and wheat, and this year mushroom pickers won for the first time. This is great for us and for all mushroom growers. Every time we were on the screen, consumers were additionally reminded about mushrooms.


- You are in the west of Ukraine. Have you thought about starting to export champignons?

- We are interested in export. We even have potential customers from Moldova and Bulgaria. But I believe that first we need to solve our main problem, which is the lack of pickers. A very large emigration is now observed, especially among women. We cannot provide the required stable production volumes, having a shortage of workers.

- At what percentage are you working now?

- 70%. This is the golden mean. There are not enough pickers anymore. On the other hand, if we grow more, it will be difficult to sell everything in Ukraine. In this case, it is really necessary to enter foreign markets. We are now largely covering facilities that were closed by several large manufacturers in the East that are now out of business. Our mushroom is now traveling far across Ukraine.

Recently, a 85-year-old pensioner Valentyna from Nikopol (war zone) called the Fungi Farm. She thanked them for delivering mushrooms to their “ATB” so that she can buy and cook her favorite dishes: soup, fried mushrooms and cabbage rolls.

At that moment, the door opens. Someone looks in and asks Mr. Yevhen when he will be free.

- Let them wait a little, I’ll give everyone a lift, - Yevhen smiles.

It turns out that he drives home pickers, because the farm is outside the city, in the countryside. They compensate for the cost of the trip, but they can also give you a ride in their car. “Fungi Farm” plans to organize a comfortable bus transfer from Ternopil, so that more people from there can be attracted to work.


- Mr. Yevhen, your farm is successful. In your opinion, what is the most important thing for success in mushroom growing?

- Two things are important. The first is to constantly learn. Every six months we go to Poland to study mushroom picking. And this year I finished my master’s degree in the specialty “Analysis of System Processes. Philosophy”. I was 34 years old when I went to study again. We still have a group of acquaintances, we get together, read and analyze Plato or something modern. It helps me in business to see the development strategy for the future.

- And what the second thing is important?

- Love what you do. For example, father cannot be taken out of the greenhouse now, he sits there from morning to night. At nine o’clock in the evening, he goes for a detour.

- Are you the same?

- I love work, but I divide my time between work and non-work. I learned this. Although I can go to the mushroom farm when I don’t have to, but for other reasons. You know, here I have my own corner and comfort zone, and I have three children at home.

- Yes, I understand. Do you see the prospect of children entering the business when they grow up?

- Of course! The middle daughter, Karina, is waiting for the weekend to go with me to the farm to pick mushrooms. Can enthusiastically collect for three hours. Or goes packing to the girls – works, communicates. She is seven years old. She looks like a “devil” after work, so I always keep a change of clothes for her in the office.

The UMDIS Agency congratulates Yevhen on behalf of our entire mushroom industry.