Q: I heard there was a mushroom farm in Huntington Beach?
A: There was, indeed, fungus among us. Ocean View Mushroom Growers had 36 dark, air-conditioned grow houses full of compost and mushrooms. The compost was made from a pungent blend of racetrack bedding, winemaking residue, rendered cow belly, and chicken manure, and pickers wore miner helmets to work in near darkness. Owner Victor DiStefano grew up around the mushroom business in Pennsylvania and, after serving part of his World War II Navy hitch in Southern California, decided to settle here and go into the business himself. By the mid-1950s, he’d settled on a parcel on Golden West Street, north of Ellis Avenue. He had 220,000 square feet of growing space, and a good crop yielded five pounds of mushrooms per square foot. When the farm shut down in the 1980s, the city began a long battle to acquire the property. Some locals who complained about the farm’s smell were even more annoyed by the high cost of the city Sports Complex that replaced it.