Designing a Small-Scale Organic Agaricus Mushroom Production System to Provide Additional Income to Family Farms
The majority of our first trials were spent using and evaluating different raw ingredients in our compost. We ran a number of different trials with locally-grown hay and straw mix. We also used horse droppings and turkey litter from local suppliers. The rest of our ingredients were from local feed stores.
Also, we concentrated on the phase II portion of composting. During phase II the compost goes through its final conditioning and de-ammonification. To do this you must be able to maintain an air temperature of 140 degrees for 3 to 6 hours – high enough to kill pest, but not beneficial bacteria. Also, you must be able to drop the compost temperature slowly through the optimal range of 118-124* to properly de-ammonify the compost.
Locally-grown hay usually resulted in more weeds than I care to deal with and variable bale weights which made the quality of our compost inconsistent and undesirable.
Horse droppings did not work well with crops this small and I had concerns with them not breaking up and mixing well.
Phase II issues were also a concern in regards to the size of the crops and their ability to create enough heat on their own to pasteurize properly.
Our yields were not as consistent as desired but overall were acceptable for the dry weight that we were putting in the trays. Our first break (first picking of 3 or 4) yield usually determined the success of the crop. If we missed it we did not gain it back on later breaks.
WORK PLAN FOR 2008
This year we are using only wheat straw along with conventional composting ingredients (cottonseed meal & dried poultry waste ~ instead of horse droppings).
Also, I am going to compost two weeks of material at a time instead of one to have more biomass to generate the heat needed to compost more uniformly and have the energy needed to maintain a good pasteurization during Phase II.
We will address the first break issues through modification of our flush and post flush handling.
We shared information about our project and SARE at the farmers markets that we attended ~ with local farmers as well as farmers market customers. Normally we service 50 to 200 people per market 2 to 3 times a week.
This year we are going to attempt to create a video and run a tape continually for people to view as they visit our stand. As well as having literature available for them to take.