Growing the Specialty Mushroom Industry in the Northeast

Final report for LNE19-376

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $98,796.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Fungi Ally, LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Willie Crosby
Fungi Ally
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Project Information

Summary:

This project helped address a critical gap between rising interest from farmers in starting mushroom production and a lack of resources and assistance to plan and start a mushroom operation. Our work aimed to educate potential mushroom farmers through educational workshops, guidebooks, and videos. The project also sought to work with 10 new or beginning mushroom farmers to begin growing mushrooms and collect data throughout the process. The research was conducted on 5 farms cultivating mushrooms. The farmers collected weekly data on labor, yield, sales, and methods of cultivation and reported back to the project team. Our approach for education was a series of in person workshops, webinars, guidebooks, and videos to promote mushroom cultivation and give clear options for starting out. At the beginning of the project over 1500 people visited the webpage, 356 attended in person trainings throughout the northeast, 150 attended the 3 online webinars, 32 submitted plans to cultivate mushrooms, 10 grew mushrooms and 5 farmers completed the 30 weeks of cultivation growing a total of over 11,000 pounds of mushrooms generating $159,779.32 in revenue (revenue includes sales of value added products not just fresh mushrooms).

Based on our research we came to several conclusions:

  1. Producing mushroom blocks in house or buying in ready to fruit blocks can both be profitable. This decision depends on what the farmer wants to do, resources available, and skill sets they have.
  2. Profitability can be achieved once a farmer is growing 50+ pounds of mushrooms per week. 
  3. Yield per block is an extremely important metric that influences all other aspects of the farm.
  4. We highly encourage cultivators to track labor to understand costs for their operation.

As a result of our education and research we have introduced thousands of people to mushroom farming. We have developed tools for farmers to decide how they want to start and what they can expect for their operation. Four farmers are continuing to produce fresh mushrooms. 

Performance Target:

Ten farmers produce and sell 9,000 pounds of specialty mushrooms over 30 weeks, generating $108,000 in sales.

Introduction:

In a previous USDA-SARE-sponsored national survey of shiitake growers, 89% of respondents indicated that demand consistently exceeded supply in their region. A 2015 Chatham University study interviewed 23 Northeastern buyers who reported needing 7,075 pounds of shiitake annually to fulfill customer demand; only 2,060 pounds (29% of demand) of locally-produced shiitakes were available for purchase. Despite this demand, only 229 farmers reported growing specialty mushrooms, and both the number of growers and the production rates have declined over the past three seasons. United States per capita consumption of all mushroom species was only 2.7 pounds in 1978 but by 2014 averaged 4 pounds per capita. The market for mushroom consumption has steadily increased over the past decades and is projected to continue to grow. Farmers are unable to access this market because of a lack of training, resources, and experts to consult. Small-diversified vegetable/livestock farms, beginning farms, and urban farms are prime candidates for specialty mushroom cultivation. Over 75% of farmers who participated in a survey conducted by the project team responded that they would benefit from participating in a project gathering data on methods of mushroom production. 

In order to propel a new generation of specialty mushroom growers, this grant compiled data on specialty mushroom production. We supported a cohort of start-up growers to model a range of commercial operations in exchange for data on start-up costs, labor, and other key considerations. The comparative data from these farms was compiled and presented in videos and booklets. Two methods of cultivation were explored:

  1. Specialty mushroom production on ready-to-fruit blocks indoors.
  2. Specialty mushroom production on ready-to-fruit blocks outdoors.

After developing a guidebook and video resources, project educators engaged 360 growers in two-hour workshops. A subset of 150 interested growers attended follow-up online sessions. Of these attendees, 32 applied for ongoing mentoring as they developed and implemented a business plan. Twelve growers were accepted for intensive support from the project team in exchange for keeping track of labor and economic data while starting and operating their enterprise. Growers offered a range of scenarios that were described in case studies and videos. These scenarios were published along with a finalized cultivation manual. All materials will be available indefinitely online.

Cooperators

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Research

Hypothesis:

Specialty mushroom production can be profitable in several scenarios, but important cost/benefit analysis for a variety of approaches is critical to grower success.

Materials and methods:

The research was targeted towards farmers interested in mushroom cultivation. It is for established farmers who are looking to diversify crops, increase revenue, or use underutilized spaces. It is also for beginning farmers looking for a high-value crop that requires low space and capital investments. As demonstrated in the introduction, the research and information available to this population at the time of proposal was inadequate to meet the rising demand for local mushrooms.

Methods:
This research was done by grant participants with the guidance, input, and support of the project team. Growers who submitted a plan decided whether to inoculate their own substrate or purchase ready-to-fruit blocks. The information presented through the first four milestones enabled growers to make this decision with the help of the project team.

The data collected provided a comparison of time and earning potential between growers involved in the entire production cycle compared to growers who purchased ready-to-fruit blocks. Five of the grant participants collected a range of data through the 30-week growing season in exchange for technical and material support. The Cornell trials represent 16 weeks of  data. "Cornell A" and "Cornell B" refer to two different periods of 16 weeks that data was recorded, all other variables were maintained.

Growers were provided excel templates and printed sheets for data collection. These sheets were developed by the project team for growers to record weekly expenses, sales, harvest, and labor hours. More established infrastructure and utility needs were recorded monthly but sporadically. All data was submitted monthly to an online database. The research team checked in with each grower once a month to answer any questions on data collection and ensure the farmers submitted data for that month. The sample population was 5 farmers ranging from cultivating 30 lbs-200 lbs per week. 

Data collection and Analysis:

The aim of collecting this data was to give potential mushroom farmers clarity on the variety of growing methods available and the drawbacks and benefits to each. To this end, grant participants collected weekly data on the following:

  • All labor hours to inoculate, monitor, initiate, sell and harvest mushrooms;
  • Any costs for materials including spawn, substrate, or blocks;
  • Weight of harvested mushrooms;
  • Revenue from fresh mushroom sales;
  • Any observational data that will be useful in reporting successes and failures.

Statistical analysis of the harvest data generated a p-value to determine if the yields from all farms were significantly different depending on the method of cultivation. Economic data was compiled and presented as both average time and material costs. An analysis of the cost-benefit ratio for each method was developed.
Each enterprise was individually analyzed and total averages were calculated. Several farms were highlighted as case studies. The project team conducted visits to each farm in order to take photos and notes about the infrastructure, size, and methods of the farm.

Research results and discussion:

We initially accepted 15 farmers into the research aspect of this study. With all that happened during 2020, 5 of those farmers were able to complete 30 weeks of data collection. 

Table 1 summarizes the datasets we received from five farms as well as from the Cornell block studies also conducted in 2020, which to some degree can be thought of as a “control” comparison to the more dynamic nature of actual on-farm production. 

Of these seven examples, three sites purchased ready-to-fruit (RTF) blocks and three sites made their own blocks on the farm. Some farms utilized 10 lb blocks and others 5 lb blocks, so for the purposes of comparison, we converted all the farms to utilize 5 lb block equivalents in our calculations. We ended up eliminating infrastructure costs (capital and fixed costs) in the analysis below because the range was too variable to compare farms. Instead, we focused on the operational costs (labor + materials) to give a snapshot of average weekly costs, to assess the realities in production systems. Interestingly, the Cornell trials fell to the middle of the group and appears to be an indicator of a potential “break even” point, suggesting that farms doing 60 blocks a week should be able to realize profit.

TABLE 1: Average Weekly Values for seven mushroom production scenarios.

Farm

Weeks of Data

Blocks Initiated per Week

Pounds Harvested/ Week

Average Pounds/ Block

Sales/

Week

Costs/

Week

Profit & Loss/ Week

Farm A

20

16.15

15.03

0.93

$112.45

$410.19

-$297.74

Farm B

30

24.03

28.00

1.17

$138.98

$233.74

-$94.76

CORNELL A

16

60.00

40.85

1.36

$490.20

$488.13

$2.07

CORNELL B

16

60.00

48.8

1.63

$585.60

$488.13

$97.47

Farm C

27

90.22

59.39

0.66

$791.10

$624.50

$166.60

Farm D

69

117.41

88.05

0.75

$969.40

$296.94

$672.46

Farm E

18

313.33

284.06

0.91

$3,389.37

$2,044.67

$1,344.70

It is important to consider the average pounds harvested per block, which across all 5 participating farms was .88 lbs. The costs per block value is also important, which accounts for both the material and labor inputs combined. The labor per block values give a sense of how much labor factors into the overall cost. We left out Cornell blocks from Table 2 because of the long duration in the fruiting room. In the Cornell setting blocks were left for an entire 8 weeks to study yield over time. Most farms do not have sufficient space to do this, or they operate under the thought that growing a new block, and rotating every 2-4 weeks, is more efficient than leaving them for 8 weeks. Another concern some growers have with leaving blocks in for a long duration is insect and disease pressure. With these considerations it could be interesting to further study if leaving blocks in a fruiting room is more viable than initiating a new one.

TABLE 2: Per block values for each farm

Farm

Average Pounds/ block

Sales/

Block

Costs/

Block

Profit & Loss/block

Labor (hr)/ block

Farm A

0.93

$6.96

$25.40

-$18.44

1.52

Farm B

1.17

$5.78

$9.73

-$3.94

0.34

Farm C

0.66

$8.77

$6.92

$1.85

0.14

Farm D

0.75

$8.26

$2.53

$5.73

0.27

Farm E

0.91

$10.82

$6.53

$4.29

0.27

Averaging the top four producing farms (one with a loss, three with a profit) yielded a good set of values to consider as the “low” end of a continuum. Averaging the three profitable ventures offered a good set of “high” values for scenario models. Averaging farms across a spectrum of profit/loss does dilute some of the details, but provides a more realistic picture for growers as they begin production. Table 3 shows the averaged values for these various groupings.

TABLE 3: Averaged per block values for various groupings of farms

 

Weeks of Data

5# Blocks Initiated/Week

Pounds/ Week

Average Pounds/lock

Sales/

Block

Costs/

Block

Profit 

& Loss/block

Labor (hr)/Block

All 5 Farms

32.8

112.23

94.90

0.88

$8.12

$10.22

-$2.10

0.51

Top 4 Farms

(LOW)

36

136.25

114.87

0.87

$8.41

$6.43

$1.98

0.25

Top 3 Farms, all Profitable

(HIGH)

38

173.65

143.83

0.77

$9.28

$5.33

$3.96

0.22

The operating costs were broken into labor and material costs. All of the farms except one were owner-operated. The labor cost was calculated by the amount of hours worked times $15 per hour. In the four owner operated farms these would be added into overall farm profit. The table below shows the breakdown of operating costs into labor and material costs.

TABLE 4: Breakdown of weekly costs

 

Labor Cost/Week

Material Cost/Week

TOTAL Costs/Week

Method

Farm A

$369.38

$40.82

$410.19

Blocks On Site

Farm B

$123.75

$109.99

$233.74

RTF Blocks

Farm C

$416.94

$207.56

$624.50

Blocks On Site

Farm D

$203.04

$93.90

$296.94

Blocks On Site

Farm E

$675.00

$1,369.67

$2,044.67

RTF Blocks

CORNELL A

$238.75

$249.38

$488.13

RTF Blocks

CORNELL B

$238.75

$249.38

$488.13

RTF Blocks

Based on the values in these tables, we can project the potential values for operating a mushroom operation on a wide range of scales. Farms tend to produce seasonally or year round, so one could consider multiplying these by the number of weeks they might consider growing to consider what a whole operation could yield.

For these scenarios, we kept the yield per block at the global average across all the farms (.88 lbs/block). Note that the values for labor, sales, and costs on a per block basis only vary to a small degree, yet result in values that almost double profitability. Table 5 shows the “low” production scenario and Table 6 shows the “high” production scenario, with modest changes in sales and costs reflecting a substantial increase in profitability.

TABLE 5: “Low” Scenario for Production based on Blocks Initiated

 

yield/block

labor/blocl

sales/block

costs/block

(profit/loss)/block

Values Used:

0.88 lbs

0.25 hrs

$8.41 

$6.42

$1.98

blocks per week

yield (lbs)

labor (hrs)

sales ($)

costs ($)

profit / loss

20

17.60

5.00

$168.20

$128.40

$39.80

40

35.20

10.00

$336.40

$256.80

$79.60

60

52.80

15.00

$504.60

$385.20

$119.40

80

70.40

20.00

$672.80

$513.60

$159.20

100

88.00

25.00

$841.00

$642.00

$199.00

120

105.60

30.00

$1,009.20

$770.40

$238.80

140

123.20

35.00

$1,177.40

$898.80

$278.60

160

140.80

40.00

$1,345.60

$1,027.20

$318.40

180

158.40

45.00

$1,513.80

$1,155.60

$358.20

200

176.00

50.00

$1,682.00

$1,284.00

$398.00

TABLE 6: “High” Scenario for Production based on Blocks Initiated

 

yield/block

labor/block

sales/block

costs/block

(profit/loss)/block

Values Used:

0.88 lbs

0.22 hrs

$9.28

$5.33

$3.96

blocks per week

yield (lbs)

labor (hrs)

sales ($)

costs ($)

profit / loss

20

17.60

4.40

$185.60

$106.60

$79.00

40

35.20

8.80

$371.20

$213.20

$158.00

60

52.80

13.20

$556.80

$319.80

$237.00

80

70.40

17.60

$742.40

$426.40

$316.00

100

88.00

22.00

$928.00

$533.00

$395.00

120

105.60

26.40

$1,113.60

$639.60

$474.00

140

123.20

30.80

$1,299.20

$746.20

$553.00

160

140.80

35.20

$1,484.80

$852.80

$632.00

180

158.40

39.60

$1,670.40

$959.40

$711.00

200

176.00

44.00

$1,856.00

$1,066.00

$790.00

Keep in mind these projections are based on the original averages, so there is no accounting for the potential efficiencies of various scales. That said, we can see in the "low scenario" that at around 160 blocks a week the enterprise becomes a full time job for one person, while generating a surplus profit of $318.40 to cover other indirect and investment costs. In the "high scenario" 180 blocks a week becomes a full time job for on person, while generating a surplus profit of $711.

Table 7 offers the breakdown of various tasks within operations and the rough percentage of the overall labor cost it represents. Some farms expressed that due to the challenges of labor tracking, their total hours were likely greater. Some farms accounted for time cleaning while for others it was wrapped into other categories. In retrospect, it would have been best to define cleaning as a separate category, since growers report this is a substantial portion of their time.

Labor accounts for 67% of operating costs, and materials 32%—an average for all of the farms. When we look at farms making blocks on site (orange) vs buying in blocks (blue), the breakdown is quite different. Farms making blocks on site arrive at 20% materials and 80% labor while ready-to-fruit block farms have a higher material cost of 58% and labor at 42%. 

TABLE 7: Breakdown of labor allocation

 

Farm A

Farm B

Farm C

Farm D

Farm E

Type

Blocks on Farm

Blocks Bought In

Blocks on 

Farm

Blocks on 

Farm

Blocks Bought In

Harvesting

34%

60%

12%

10%

20%

Inoculation

22%

0%

29%

34%

0%

Delivery/Sales

29%

21%

30%

46%

33%

Packing /Processing

14%

17%

14%

10%

22%

other /cleaning

1%

2%

15%

0

25%

 

 

Research conclusions:

1) Ready-to-Fruit and BOS (Blocks on site) can both be profitable, or not.

Based on the data, there was not a clear “winner” in terms of overall profitability when thinking about the two approaches (more on this below). Not surprisingly, what does seem clear is that within operating costs, labor is much more substantial when blocks are made on site, while materials costs are higher for those operations buying in ready-to-fruit blocks. One consideration is that labor is a cost that can theoretically be improved or reduced by a grower, while the material costs of buying blocks are likely out of their hands. 

2) Scale matters for profitability

The farms producing at the lower end of scale (16-24 blocks/week) did not report profitable numbers, while those at 90 blocks per week and above saw positive gains. The tables above suggests profitability at each scale, but remember that this is operating costs only. The fixed and capital costs, along with the number of weeks in production will greatly affect the potential profit or loss of a specific operation. The farms producing 50 lbs or more per week were consistently profitable while the ones below were typically not profitable. 

3) It is important to analyze the yield per block. The range farms reported was .66 to 1.36 lb per block. This means the proper selection of strains, substrate, and methods could cut potential yields in half, or double them, depending on the choices made. I have found proper shiitake strain selection for logs and sawdust increased yields by 25-100% (for more information, see Shiitake Mushroom Cultivation in the Northeast United States). Strain WR-46 was best for logs and strain 3782 performed the best for sawdust. Spawn companies and other growers are great resources for determining what strain and substrate mixes are best. This is an area that can be continuously researched and further developed to support mushroom cultivation.  It is recommended that farms track production yields periodically and use these measures to determine changes that can improve their operation over time. 

4) Calculate hours per pound by tracking labor. Growers reported a wide range of values for labor in relation to their yields. The average was .56 hours per pound, with .14 hours being lowest and 1.52 hours being highest. In most farm enterprises, labor is the highest cost and also has the highest potential for improvement. Improving the flow of workers and materials, the skills and abilities of the workforce, and the way spaces are set up can all have dramatic effects. As a starting point, it's critical to track the labor and develop a system to make this record-keeping simple so that it does not detract from production work. 

Participation Summary
5 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

We used established mushroom listservs and groups to spread the word about this project and recruit interested farmers. Cornell, UMass, and other extension departments helped recruit farmers through their newsletters. Recruitment was also done through social media outreach. The first two specialty mushroom cultivation guidebooks were published in October 2019 to further recruit and offer clarity on methods of cultivation. Applications were assessed and given feedback and 15 farmers were selected to continue with the project. The third guidebook was published in December 2021 and shared with 15,000+ people. 

The educational curriculum covered a variety of topics:

  • Mushroom Life Cycle:understanding the life cycle as it pertains to cultivation.
  • Systems of commercial mushroom cultivation: three different options for materials and methods of specialty mushroom cultivation.
  • Building a Growing Space: the parameters needed for proper mushroom formation and how to create them.
  • Inoculation Procedures: familiarity with past research and methods to grow oyster mycelium.
  • Managing contamination and pests: how to manage issues with inoculation and fruiting of specialty
    mushrooms.
  • Harvest and Storage: when to harvest, quality control, and post-harvest storage.
  • Selling and Marketing: pricing, markets, and methods of selling mushrooms.
  • Building a Viable Enterprise: incorporating mushroom cultivation into a farm business, cost-benefit analysis.

The instructional methods became more individualized as the grant proceeded.
1) Farmers participated in online webinars or received materials via email describing the grant.
2) 350+ Farmers participated in two-hour in person workshops that were held throughout the Northeast. The workshops outlined the basics of specialty mushroom cultivation and three different methods of cultivation.
3)150 Farmers that were interested in growing specialty mushrooms took part in a 3 week online webinar series which covered the processes of growing specialty mushrooms in greater detail.
4) 32 Farmers submitted a detailed plan for growing 20+ pounds of mushrooms per week. 15 farmers were given feedback, talked with the project team, and accepted into the program. 
5)During the growing season of 2020 the project team answered questions by phone or email and checked in monthly for questions and to collect data. We also held one grower conference on zoom. A full Data set was collected from 5 farmers. 
6) Three farms were visited and videos created at each farm with a grower interview, farm tour, and additional short videos on pieces of the cultivation process. 

The following videos were created during the duration of this grant. These 17 videos are available on YouTube and contain an immense amount of information for farmers interested in starting a mushroom farm.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I4cu3iT-Ac Sugar Shack Dry Bagging Process

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im6BhX-Ibic Sugar Shack Interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlCiqaXG7DU Sugar Shack Farm Tour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbC5VEIWpu8 Funj Shrooming interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAtDTGIxEUA Funj Shrooming Inoculation Process

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecT43Smm2HI Funj  Shrooming Mushroom Tour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajUNeCyVQ6U Rock City Tour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJKqSVgvN5A Rock City interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0r41prVdBI Shiitake Mushroom Fruiting and Initiation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPDRBRLrM4c Blue Oyster initiation and fruiting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqMNUBSf6xE Lion’s Mane initiation and fruiting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeETxNosnm4 Rock City grow room tour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05zEqH9nr_c SARE Webinar 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rld6katxt0 SARE webinar 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSQ2DnBJfCk SARE webinar 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEbDN3Haddk Mycoterra Tour part 2 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beurNUTbJW0 Mycoterra Tour Part 1

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

1000 vegetable and beginning farmers in the Northeast learn about specialty mushroom cultivation as a viable farm enterprise through webinars, newsletters, and emails. April - August 2019.
Initial training and record keeping materials are developed. April - August 2019

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
1000
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
1500
Proposed Completion Date:
August 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2019
Accomplishments:

Through newsletters, announcements and social media over 10,000 people were contacted about this project. At least 1500 went to the website describing the project and learned about mushroom cultivation as a farming enterprise. 

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

300 farmers attend trainings (30 participants at 10 events) facilitated by growers and educators in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Maine. Workshops cover cultivation techniques, business planning, and project performance target. October - January 2020.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
300
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
356
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
1
Proposed Completion Date:
January 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 16, 2019
Accomplishments:

8 workshops were held throughout the northeast with 356 people attending the workshops. These workshops were held in Maine, New York, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Vermont. Two were cancelled due to snowstorms. 

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

100 farmers attend three 2-hour webinars providing in-depth training on specialty cultivation
methods; fruiting room design and maintenance; and expected hours, expenses and income to produce 20-50 pounds of mushrooms a week. February 2020.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
150
Proposed Completion Date:
February 29, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 19, 2020
Accomplishments:

Three online webinars were held on Feb 5th, 12th, 19th with around 50 people attending each. They were posted on YouTube after and have received 3,287 views since then. The webinars provided in-depth training on specialty cultivation methods; fruiting room design and maintenance; and expected hours, expenses and income to produce 20-50 pounds of mushrooms a week. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05zEqH9nr_c SARE Webinar 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rld6katxt0 SARE webinar 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSQ2DnBJfCk SARE webinar 1

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

15 farmers submit a basic plan and budget for a system to produce 30 pounds of specialty mushrooms per week for 30 weeks between April and December. March 2020.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
32
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
April 15, 2021
Accomplishments:

32 farmers submitted applications including a basic plan and budget to produce 20-50 pounds of mushroom per week during the 2020 growing season. 

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

10 Farmers produce 9,000 pounds of mushrooms generating $108,000 of added income and
receive ongoing support with the project team by phone, email, and a group discussion board. Site visits are arranged with participating growers and their systems documented by project team. Data on expenses, sales, and labor inputs is collected by growers and reviewed monthly by project team. April - December 2020.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
7
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2021
Accomplishments:

Ten farmers produced mushrooms during the 2020 growing season. Three of these ten farmers dropped out after the first 3-4 weeks of mushroom production. These farmers were just starting out growing mushrooms. Between the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulties of starting a new mushroom farm they did not continue. Two of the ten farmers stopped growing and/or collecting data after 8-12 weeks. Five of the ten growers recorded data for the entire 30 weeks. In total 11,624 pounds of mushrooms were harvested during the year. 

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

10 participating farmers submit final production, yield and quality data. December 2020.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
5
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2020
Accomplishments:

We successfully worked with 10 farmers to begin cultivating mushrooms. Five of these farmers did not continue beyond three or four weeks because of Covid (Many started growing in April of 2020) and the difficulties of starting a new enterprise . Five of the farmers collected good data and were able to continue growing for 30 weeks. Of those five, four of them are still producing mushrooms one year later. 

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Data is analyzed and informs an enterprise budget tool. Case studies of selected farms are written and published. Guidebook is finalized with data incorporated from the project and is published online and distributed to 5,000 people through Facebook, listservs, and newsletters. May 2021

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
5000
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
19000
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2021
Accomplishments:

The guidebook was distributed to over 15,000 people through email lists, Facebook, social media, and the fungi ally website. It will be available indefinitely on the Fungi Ally website and Cornell website. Case Studies of 3 farms were completed and published in video format. Over 4,000 people have viewed these case studies and tours since. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im6BhX-Ibic Sugar Shack Interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlCiqaXG7DU Sugar Shack Farm Tour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbC5VEIWpu8 Funj Shrooming interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecT43Smm2HI Funj  Shrooming Mushroom Tour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajUNeCyVQ6U Rock City Tour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJKqSVgvN5A Rock City interview

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities:

5 Consultations
3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Journal articles
2 Tours
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
6 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

356 Farmers participated

Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Five farmers were able to begin or increase cultivation of mushrooms. These farmers recorded data and were able to begin or ramp up production through the course of this project. Four of them are continuing to produce mushrooms. 

Performance Target Outcomes

Target #1

Target: number of farmers:
10
Target: change/adoption:

Begin cultivating mushrooms

Target: amount of production affected:

9,000 pounds of mushrooms

Target: quantified benefit(s):

$108,000 of revenue

Actual: number of farmers:
5
Actual: change/adoption:

Began, continued, or increased cultivating specialty mushrooms

Actual: amount of production affected:

11,000 pounds of mushrooms

Actual: quantified benefit(s):

$159,779.32 in revenue

Performance Target Outcome Narrative:

Our outreach and education efforts in 2019 aimed to have 10 farmers begin growing mushrooms and collecting data in April or 2020. With the covid pandemic beginning of the 15 farmers accepted into the project only five were able to produce mushrooms through a 30 week period. Of those five, four are still growing mushrooms now. Through the data reported from these farmers a total of 11,000 pounds of mushrooms were produced for a revenue of $159,779.32. 

5 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

Additional Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
1 Grant received that built upon this project
$14,356.00 Dollar amount of grant received that built upon this project
Additional Outcomes:

One of the beneficiaries of the grant received a SARE grant to Trial Cultivating Chicken of the Woods Using Standard Mushroom Farm Technology. 

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

There are so many variables and areas of rapid growth in the mushroom cultivation industry. Continuing to develop cultivation techniques for new mushrooms and find ways to create value added products is essential for continuing to build the mushroom industry in the northeast. As technical assistance basically does not exist for small scale mushroom farmers (under 10,000 lbs a week) developing support and education systems for mushroom farms will help to continue evolve the industry. 

Participants

No participants

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.