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STREETSEEN  |  Scott Lisenby

Photo by Steve Roberts

Scott Lisenby: Bluff City Fungi

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

A small urban family farm is literally “mushrooming” in the University of Memphis area. Scott Lisenby has taken a hobby interest and grown it into a business that now boasts the largest variety of produce of its kind in the Mid-South — fungi, better known as mushrooms.

Lisenby grew up in Memphis and says he always liked gardening. However, his keen interest in horticulture only started about six or seven years ago.

“I wanted to grow my own food,” said Lisenby. “So a partner (Sarah Link) and I hooked up with the folks running the Roots Memphis Farm Academy, a farm incubator. They taught the business basics, then gave us a plot of land where we could work out our business plan.”

Lisenby and Link started Mycofloral, a produce and flower farm. But after about two years, they felt they had outgrown the program and dissolved their farm.

“We both hung up our farmer’s hats and took up regular day jobs again,” recalled Lisenby. “I enjoyed working in food service and catering, but I still wanted to work for myself. I set aside part of my paychecks to buy the supplies I needed to build a mushroom farm. I was renting a house in the Berclair area and the landlord let me set up a greenhouse in the backyard.”

Lisenby continued, “At the time I was a server at The Kitchen at Shelby Farms Park. The chef was Dennis Phelps, who turned out to be a mushroom fanatic. He allowed me to bring some in for him to try in the restaurant. That led to weekly deliveries and to The Kitchen becoming my first customer.”

From that connection in the Fall of 2016, Lisenby said he realized that he was offering something unique. For one thing, Oyster Mushrooms, the variety that has served as the base upon which Lisenby has built his farm, don’t ship well. Translation — growing them locally gave Lisenby an edge over other commercial growers. That first account gave Lisenby the encouragement he needed to pursue his dream and to have faith that he could make a reasonable income.

“From there I started experimenting with varieties that are a little harder to cultivate; Shiitake, King Trumpet, Lion’s Mane and Chestnut Mushrooms,” said Lisenby. “I started selling to The Curb Market, Miss Cordelia’s, The Farmer and even Super-Lo. And to sell directly to the public, I participated in the Cooper-Young Farmers Market and the Memphis Farmers Market.”

It was at the markets that Lisenby was able to foster his mission of educating others about the value of mushrooms, with a goal of making them household staples rather than specialty items.

“Mushrooms are an excellent exchange for meat,” explained Lisenby. “They are very high in protein and low in fat, and they provide trace minerals that are important in a healthy diet. Some varieties have medicinal properties as well. There are endless options for incorporating mushrooms into meals, including spaghetti sauces, soups and stews, even vegan-friendly crab cakes.”

For now, Bluff City Fungi has taken up residence in the backyard of family owned house  where the mushrooms are grown in greenhouses using vertical farming techniques. Lisenby oversees daily operations and works to cultivate relationships with area chefs, while his mother, Patti Young, manages deliveries and the farmers market business.

“We’ve been in operation for about two years, and we’re just emerging from the pilot phase, hoping to take business to the next level,” said Lisenby. “My dream is to move into a dedicated warehouse space that offers more room for expansion. I want us to be ‘The Mushroom People’ of Memphis and the Mid-South.” 

For more information about Scott Lisenby and his mushroom farm, check out https://www.facebook.com/bluffcityfungi/ or bluffcityfungi on Instagram. Or contact Lisenby at bluffcityfungi@outlook.com.


STREETSEEN  |  Jeff Powell

Photo by Steve Roberts

Jeff Powell: Steeped in the Dying Art of Mastering Vinyl

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Jeff Powell has been a part of the Memphis music scene for over 30 years. He moved to Memphis in 1987 to attend Memphis State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in recording technology. While going to school, he started working at Kiva Studio, a business owned by Gary Belz that became known as House of Blues. Starting as an intern, over the course of two years, Powell worked his way up to becoming an assistant engineer. Then in 1989, Powell was hired by Ardent as a staff engineer/mixer and ultimately became a staff producer.

“Most of my time at Ardent was spent working as a staff engineer and producer,” recalled Powell. “It was there that I also learned a new skill that changed my career forever — I learned how to cut vinyl. In 2008, I started my own business, Take Out Vinyl, but Ardent was still my home base for recording and producing.”

Powell’s career highlights have included recording records for The Allman Brothers Band, B.B. King and Bob Dylan, just to name a few.

Powell continued, “It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Ardent had the equipment, a lathe. Not just any lathe — it happened to be the original STAX lathe. And they also had famed Stax/Ardent mastering engineer Larry Nix. I was lucky to apprentice under Larry because there’s not a book you can read to learn how to cut vinyl, it just takes a lots of practice.”

In 2015, Powell bought his own equipment, a classic Neumann VMS 70 lathe, and subsequently moved into the iconic Sam Phillips Studio.

“The place was largely unchanged since 1959, but they let me redesign the old Studio B control room, which I built it into my lathe room,” said Powell.  “The first record I cut was on the Shangrila label, a soundtrack of a Memphis wrestling movie. Since then I’ve cut over 1,000 records, including Elvis Presley’s re-issued records, like ‘The Wonder of You’ which just went platinum, and Al Green’s Greatest Hits (I’ve done that one twice).”

Powell explained that cutting vinyl is quite involved, and the required skill set is a dying art. The entire process, from getting the master digital files from an artist or a producer to having the final cuts stamped out as vinyl records, takes three to four months.

“It’s fun, it’s challenging and it’s definitely high stress, but so worth it when it comes back right,” said Powell. “When I started playing vinyl again, I realized how much I enjoyed it. It is an all together different listening experience. Now the younger kids are keeping vinyl vibrant. I’ve heard predictions that downloading music will be a thing of the past soon. Most people will purchase their music through streaming services; however, vinyl, which crossed the $1 billion mark last year, will be the main physical medium.”

As the only person cutting vinyl in this area, it is easy to understand how this endeavor has become the mainstay of Powell’s career.

“I still produce and engineer records now and then, but mostly I stay busy with cutting vinyl,” said Powell. “I’ve been thrilled to work on multiple gold and platinum records, as well as six Grammy-winning projects. I have chaired the Producer and Engineering wing for the Memphis Chapter of NARAS and currently serve on their Board of Governors.”

When asked what’s next on his horizon, Powell said, “In October, I’m going to be a panelist at an annual vinyl convention hosted by Jack White in Detroit. And I have just cut a boxed set of all of Al Green’s singles (52 songs) on 7-inch 45’s scheduled to come out on Black Friday in November, just in time for the holidays. That is a day that record shops all across the country, including Goner Records and Shangri-La, have special releases.”