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Student Spotlight: Te'Lario Watkins

One of the things that we love most about Students Rebuild is all of the amazing young people that we get to learn about who take our Challenges. We were thrilled to learn about an incredible mushroom farmer named Te’Lario Watkins. He is a business owner, published author, and philanthropist. And did I mention he is just 12 years-old?! We hope that you enjoy learning about him as much as we did.

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Can you introduce yourself to our audience - tell us about yourself! Who is Te'Lario?

Hi! My name is Te’Lario Watkins II and I’m a 12-year-old mushroom farmer. I founded Tiger Mushroom Farms after a Cub Scout project ended when I was 7 years old. Tiger Mushroom Farms is a small local mushroom farm in Central Ohio. We cultivate shiitake & oyster mushrooms.

I wrote a book called “Te’Lario’s Amazing Mushroom Farm” because I wanted to inspire kids. It’s about my journey to become an entrepreneur and how I give back to my community. One of my missions is to end hunger. I’m a Hunger Hero with No Kid Hungry and I host annual Friendsgivings to raise money and awareness about hunger. I also volunteer with Food Rescue U.S., I pick-up unsold food from restaurants and deliver it to local food banks. I plan to save 1 million pounds of food from the landfill and divert it to families in need for my Eagle Scout project.

I also enjoy cooking and I recently joined the Kids Advisory Board with Chop Chop Magazine. It’s a non-profit that encourages families to create healthy meals together.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I love fencing and I’m pretty good at it.

Tell us about the process of cultivating mushrooms. What is needed, how do you have to care for them?

We use sawdust blocks for our shiitake mushrooms. You need the room to be humid and cool. Shiitakes don’t need a lot of light, so they love the basement. The oyster mushrooms like a warmer environment and we use straw to grow those in a spare bedroom.

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What is the hardest part of what you do and which part is the most fun?

The hardest part of growing mushrooms is making sure you harvest all the good ones before they go bad. The most fun part is selling them at farmers market and trying all the samples at the market.

Would you be willing to share your favorite mushroom recipe with us?

One of my favorite recipes is Shiitake Duxelle, it’s on my website!

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How did you find out about the Students Rebuild Hunger Challenge and what inspired you to participate?

I found out about the Students Rebuild Hunger Challenge from Haile Thomas. I met her a couple of years ago. She teaches kids how to eat healthier.

What can you tell us about your engagement in the Challenge so far?

So far I have asked elementary schools and after school kids to create recipes to help end hunger. They are working on their recipes and should finish them by the end of December. I’m also hosting a Students Rebuild Hunger Challenge event at a local library with a City Councilmember later this week. I will share some of the videos and get kids to create more recipes.

Why do you think young people should take action to end hunger?

We should take action because no one should go hungry when we have so much food that is wasted. Everyone should have food!