We love meeting kids who are doing creative projects in the food world, like running their own businesses and volunteering to help at-risk communities. That’s why we were excited to interview a kid mushroom farmer, Te’Lario Watkins II, who is also one of our new Kids Advisory Board members. Te’Lario founded Tiger Mushroom Farms at the age of seven and began selling his mushrooms at local farmers markets. He has received attention from several local and national media outlets, including the Steve Harvey Show. Get to know him more in the interview below.
Can you tell us a bit about you and Tiger Mushroom Farms?
My name is Te’Lario Watkins II and I’m an 11-year-old mushroom farmer, author, speaker, and Hunger Hero. I love to fence and I also love superheroes. I started Tiger Mushroom Farms when I was 7 years old after a Cub Scout project ended. I grew cat grass & basil and it was fun. When the cat grass died and we harvested the basil for pizza, I wanted to keep growing something. It was wintertime, so I had to find something to grow indoors. I told my parents about a book I read about growing mushrooms. My parents bought some kits and I loved it.
What got you into farming and gardening?
We grew some sunflowers when I was little. It was bigger than my head!! When I started selling my mushrooms at the farmers market, I learned some people didn’t have healthy food to eat. I wanted to help. I started a bigger garden and donated the produce to a local food bank. I also volunteer to deliver unsold food to local food banks. I have saved over $5,000 meals from going to the landfill. It feels good to help feed families and save the environment. I’m also a Hunger Hero with No Kid Hungry. I raise money and awareness every year.
How did you learn to cook?
I learned to cook from watching and helping my mom and dad cook.
If you were a vegetable or fruit what would you be and why?
I would be a mushroom because I’m always growing and spreading spores (seeds) to help others grow too!
What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is pizza with mushrooms on it.
What is a food that you started eating because you knew it was good for you, but now you love it?
Mushrooms! I didn’t eat a lot of them before growing them. Once I watched a mushroom grow and took care of it, I wanted to try it and I loved it.
What is one of your most memorable cooking moments?
My most memorable moments are when I cook for kids at camp. At first, they don’t like mushrooms. When they smell the Shiitake Duxelle cooking, they change their minds. When they taste the mushrooms, they love them so much they lick the plate!
What do you love about ChopChop?
I love that ChopChop encourages kids and families to try different dishes.
Do you have a favorite ChopChop recipe?
Any-Vegetable Easy-Crust Pizza is one of my favorites!
We hope you enjoyed hearing from Te’Lario as much as we did! Do you know a kid who is involved in innovative and impactful food projects? Send them our way to be featured on our blog: firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome all stories and look forward to getting to know more kids who love to cook!