An Interview with Ximena Zamacona, Founder and Owner
Photos by Stephanie Cameron​​

Oyster mushrooms growing at Full Circle Mushrooms.

“I am a dancer at heart,” says Ximena Zamacona, founder and owner of Full Circle Mushrooms in La Mesa. “I am a nature lover and learner,” she adds. With her background in chemistry and high-tech greenhouse production, her favorite object of study is the fine intertwine of logic and intuition. Full Circle specializes in growing gourmet mushrooms for wider New Mexico, which can be found at farmers markets, grocery stores, and restaurants. The farm combines traditional knowledge with a system that produces healthy food—mushrooms from the desert—while regenerating the soil through their growing practices. “When I decided to pursue a career as a grower, it was hard to see myself at that level, not because I thought I couldn’t do it, but I had to see it to know it’s possible,” Zamacona shares. Her vision was to build a business to support her and her family (pets included) while also giving back to the community. “I am a Mexican female grower. We are proudly and unapologetically woman-owned and I hope to set an image and an example for future generations of girls.”

Ximena Zamacona, founder and owner of Full Circle Mushrooms.

What led you to mushrooms?

I was led to mushrooms by the idea of making something that will give back to nature with a minimal impact, by using agricultural waste to create something of value out of it.

How does your farm differ from others in southern New Mexico?

We are the first woman-owned and -operated farm in the Southwest. I take a lot of pride in it, because we do face a lot of hoops.

Our company exists to transform connections between nature and ourselves to advance the care of the outside world. We do it by growing food that nurtures our bodies and the soil around us.

Do you still use pecan wood as part of your substrate? What else do you use, and how does the substrate fit into the “full circle” that inspired your name?

We ran our farm entirely with pecans in the beginning until I realized it was not sustainable because we don’t have big machinery like a forklift that could allow us to work. We transitioned to other agricultural by-products such as wood from sawmills. Our commitment to keep it full circle remains. We are sharing our spent substrate with local farmers. We partnered with La Semilla Community Farm and Pata Viva Farm, to name a few, to bring to their farm organic matter and composted blocks. We grow in by-products, then our by-products are the new soil for other farmers. Our pecan project is still on the horizon though!

What is your top seller? Is there a mushroom you’d like to talk more home cooks (or chefs) into trying?

Our top seller at farmers markets is our Forest Mix, a blend of oyster, lion’s mane, and shiitake. (You saw it here first!)

For chefs, they all have different preferences. Our chefs love our variety. We are one of the few farms that grow a wide variety, including shiitake, maitake, chestnut, oyster, lion’s mane, and black king.

Chestnut mushrooms.

Do you have a favorite ingredient to pair with mushrooms?

I like to keep it simple—butter, thyme, and garlic. The key is to sear them as if they were meat. Medium heat, and don’t move them much. Look for that golden crust! Sear them first, then add spices, and salt at the end so they don’t hold water.

What kind of food did you grow up eating?

I grew up eating what my mom cooked fresh every day. Setas, as we call mushrooms in central Mexico, are common closer to the mountains. A mix of setas with queso oaxaca and epazote on a corn tortilla is mouthwatering!

Whether in Mexico or New Mexico, what role do you see mushrooms playing in cultural shifts around food and agriculture?

Mushrooms all across La Sierra Madre are part of the culture, mainly foraged and consumed by everyone in small towns. Nowadays, I see the “shroom boom” is also expanding to main cities. Mushrooms are not just food. They are definitely creating a culture around them.

When you talk about community, how do you define yours?

Loving, supportive, nature-conscious. Our Full Circle community is inspiring! We have a great relationship with our local chefs too. Real community shows when things don’t go well, and we work together to make it better.

What (or who) have been three of your greatest influences?

My grower-mentor, who keeps me on my toes.

My husband, for his unconditional support.

Internet for sure (ha ha!)—I have learned so much through this tool.

Who’s your favorite food authority, local, national, or international?

I love Sofia Toraño! She is demystifying mushrooms and is an amazing plant-based chef from central Mexico. Also Derek Sarno, for his undeniable contributions to mushroom cooking techniques.

Anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?

Each and every one of your decisions when it comes to supporting local is a vote for your community. You eat three times a day, and every time you choose local, you are voting for making it richer.