Mushroom cultivation as a way to get out of poverty

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $9,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: StarkFresh
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Tom Phillips

Information Products


  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: Mushrooms
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training, farm-to-restaurant
  • Production Systems: Mushrooms
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, food hubs, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, quality of life, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    In Canton Ohio, 32% poverty rates are a reality.  Those seeking employment in order to be able to afford food and be able to pull themselves out of poverty, are few and far between, especially without a college education or with a criminal record of some sort.  This past year, StarkFresh has opened its Food Justice Campus, located within the heart of downtown Canton, Ohio in a nearly 100-year-old building.  In addition to removing barriers for people to have their own food-related businesses with shared office space and a shared, licensed commercial kitchen, the Campus basement has been set aside to allow for a commercial mushroom growing operation.  Not only are there no other locally-owned mushroom farms, but also none are designed to create employment opportunities for low-income individuals who are seeking a way to earn a living.  Locally, the demand is high for gourmet-grade oyster mushrooms.  By growing in an otherwise unusable interior space, we are able to better use resources and not have to take up potentially valuable land for other agricultural crops.  Through the creation of this pilot mushroom farm, we hope to create an example of how a different approach to food and employment can create a meaningful way out of poverty.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Prep and equip the basement at the Food Justice Campus to be a suitable space for mushroom cultivation.
    2. Test different growing mediums using food scrap composts, straw, newspaper and coffee grounds.
    3. Take an unskilled, low-income individual and teach them how to cultivate mushrooms.
    4. Increase mushroom sales to local restaurants.
    5. Document the entire process to be able to duplicate at a later date, at a different location, with different individuals.
    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.