What started as a family experiment with a petri dish has mushroomed into a fascinating enterprise for Keystonians George ’01 and Jennifer Linsenbigler.
George holds an associate degree in wildlife biology, while Jennifer, who studied fine and graphic arts, are co-owners of 3rd Kingdom Mushrooms in Vandling, Pa. The couple chose the name from one of the five biological kingdoms of living things – fungi. “Mushrooms are interesting. They are primary decomposers in the world,” George said.
One day, while cyber-schooling their son Gabe, they came across an extra petri dish. Gabe suggested setting up a spore print and he reveled in the joy of a successful outcome. “I said, ‘we could do this,’ and we decided to build on Gabe’s excitement,” George recalls. “My background in wildlife biology and interest in mycology gave me a foundation to start and grow our own business.”
3rd Kingdom supplies gourmet offerings to more than 20 upscale restaurants, private clubs and retailers, mostly stretching throughout Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. With 30 tasty varieties like Black Pearl King Oyster, Chestnut and Lion’s Mane, they produce about 200 pounds of mushrooms weekly. The process adheres to the highest organic standards. George explained that every stage of cultivation is climate-controlled, as a mushroom would be in its cycle of the ecosphere.
He credits professors Howard Jennings, Jerry Skinner and Vicki Stanavitch with providing the tools for success. “Studying wildlife biology at Keystone was a different experience and far out of this world from what you think as typical science studies,” he said.
The Linsenbiglers are eyeing other properties to expand their business footprint, eventually entering into retail. “Ever since COVID and how the economy is going, we find more people eager for locally grown, high-quality products that will sell themselves,” George observed.
Jennifer used to tag along to George’s biology classes and dabbled in graphics – a skill she uses today as sales and marketing director for 3rd Kingdom. She is proud to be part of a Keystone family tradition with her father, Robert Walsh ’73 and her sister Eileen Walsh ’19. Eileen is a therapist at the Keystone College Counseling and Well-Being Center.
When not fully ensconced in spores, you can often find the couple exploring the Woodlands Campus, sometimes searching for salamanders and frogs in the vernal pool.
“Keystone was and continues to be a marvelous experience. We wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Jennifer said.