My Second Act (Part 2) - Marco Lobregat – From Marketing Manager To Mushroom Grower

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Marco Lobregat – From Marketing Manager To Mushroom Grower

Marco Lobregat had a job people would kill for. Straight out of college, he bagged a lucrative career that allowed him to travel and live in different countries for four months at a time. “I was the International Director for Sales and Marketing for World Eye Reports, which does special supplements for The Japan Times. I was selling advertising and basically interviewing government officials and top CEOs to build promotional reports for that country.” It was Marco’s dream job, but sadly, he had to give up the possibility of working abroad when things didn’t turn out as planned in 2008.

Description: Marco Lobregat

Marco Lobregat

“I was allowed to take a break and was considering going back to school for my master’s degree. So I came home and studied for the GMAT. I didn’t get the score that I wanted. And coming from a high – I was the top salesman and was much more confident – I was broken-hearted. Then the company I was working for laid off 80 percent of its people. The possibility of not having anything to go back to shattered me even more.”

Instead of wallowing in his disappointment, the young optimist found good use for what was at his disposal – his dad’s vacant farm (they used to be one of the top three cut-flower producers in the country); his love for mushrooms (“Put it on anything and I’ll love it,” he says); his extensive business experience; and trusted friends with whom he had long wanted to put up a business. “Our family friend, JJ Ortoll, used to grow mushrooms as a hobby. He was also looking for something new to do in his life, so I told him I would do a couple more projects to earn the capital for our venture. While that was happening, I went to Spain to see him and he told me that his roommate Nano Sala was graduating as a chemical engineer and that he could really help us with it.” Thus began Ministry of Mushrooms. Today, JJ and Nano are responsible for perfecting the process of mushroom cultivation in the Lobregat farm in Lipa, Batangas, while Marco puts his marketing and sales expertise to good use by getting the word out to chefs, home cooks, and other possible growers.

Description: This is Marco and his partners at work in their mushroom farm

This is Marco and his partners at work in their mushroom farm

“I keep falling deeper in love with mushrooms,” says Marco. “Plus, our love for food keeps the passion burning.” Compared to his previous job, he says running Ministry of Mushrooms has tested his patience much more because it’s a long-term endeavor. “Every deal that I close is different. It’s a step toward the right direction. The thrill lies in seeing our big dream happen.” With the way things are running, it won’t be long before the dream mushrooms into reality.

Ministry of Mushrooms sells fresh and dried oyster mushrooms at the Salcedo Weekend Market. The farm is located at 67 Antipolo del Norte, Lipa City, Batangas; mobile nos.: 0917-5588708; 0917-500MUSH; [email protected].

Making mushrooms

JJ Ortoll and Nano Sala of Ministry of Mushrooms offer advice to those interested in the business of mushroom growing.

·         Specialize in a specific area of the production

“Each step in the mushroom growing process (i.e. spawn production, fruiting bag production, harvesting, and processing) requires time and investment. Some growers spread themselves too thin since they do not have enough time or capital to get the return of investment they need. Specialization allows the grower to focus on quality and the capital investment will not be as heavy.”

·         Clean up!

“Cleanliness is very important,” says JJ. “A clean growing environment is key to consistently producing quality mushrooms.” Nano adds, “You have to be methodic when it comes to cleanliness – in the laboratory, compost preparation, harvesting and processing. It’s the only way to keep improving every day.”

·         Know your ‘shrooms

“You have to be passionate and patient,” says Nano. “It takes time to understand what each mushroom needs, like the optimal food and environmental conditions they need to grow successfully all year round.” JJ adds, “You also have to be gentle when handling the mushrooms. They are highly perishable and bruise easily.”
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