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Mushroom master calls time

Clive Thompson, owner of Parkvale Mushrooms. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

Six decades growing mushrooms

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Clive Thompson, owner of Parkvale Mushrooms, has announced he is planning to retire after growing mushrooms since he was still living with his parents in Featherston about 60 years ago.

His career is one that started from small beginnings and required grit and determination to succeed.

He started growing mushrooms at the Parkvale site 54 years ago.

Parkvale Mushrooms now serves the domestic market with several variations of brown mushrooms, such as the Parkvale Flat – with the cap fully opened and the gills exposed.

They are popular and flavourful, with a lower moisture content making them ideal for certain styles of cooking.

“I started in September 1966 – that’s just here at Parkvale – I was growing mushrooms for a few years before that too.”

His operation in Featherston, his hometown, was quite small, growing mushrooms from a purpose-built structure in his parents’ backyard.

Parkvale would later grow around the Thompson family home outside of Carterton, where Thompson and his wife Margaret ran the business.

As the business grew, with more machinery and growing areas added, it became less practical to have a home placed in the middle of the large mushroom operation.

So, the couple made the decision to move the house, and transported it nearby.

While Thompson built the company from virtually nothing, he also built it physically.

He recalled personally installing a major ventilation system, which keeps the compost aerated at the compost warehouse, which is all part of his hands-on approach.

“That was a major job, my God it was tough on my back, but it made a big difference.”

While Parkvale was able to continue producing during the lockdown, their demand decreased due to the high quality of the product.

Parkvale Mushrooms are a favourite of restaurants, so the restrictions on hospitality trade and cruise ships presented a real challenge – but like many of the challenges Thompson has faced, he was able to weather it.

The longest he’s been away from the business is a month spent in California in the 1980s, but other than that, he has more or less worked solidly as a mushroom producer.

Thompson’s plans for retirement are, unsurprisingly, relaxing ones.

He’s an avid reader, and said he would now spend more time reading – espionage fiction is a favourite genre. He’s also keen to spend more time with his Australian terrier, Pipi.

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