Sustainable Mushroom Cultivation in the North for Disabled Growers

Project Overview

FNC96-162
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1996: $4,055.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: swine

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Education and Training: networking
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management, market study

    Summary:

    PROJECT BACKGROUND
    Converting a pig barn into a mushroom growing facility. This is my first experience with sustainable practices.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    To demonstrate the transition from swine production to profitable shiitake mushroom production utilizing existing facilities. Finding appropriate models of facilities, tools, and practices user friendly to a person with physical disability.

    This goal was accomplished by visiting other mushroom facilities and getting literature together to learn the process of growing the shiitake mushroom. This included finding a source that could provide me with necessary supplies.

    To develop facility innovations sufficient for mushroom production by a physically disabled producer. Conversion of hog facility to an environment conducive to growing shiitake mushrooms in a year round rotation.

    This goal was accomplished by first tearing out the pens, water lines and furnace in the old facility. Then the building needed a thorough cleaning because I was changing from the raising of animals to the growing of a food product. The barn then had to have additional insulation, and walls and ceilings had to be covered with plastic. The heat had to be converted from forced air to hydronic and piped all around the walls. About the time the well point plugged up and a new one had to be put down. All of this was necessary to keep a good humidity content and also have the ability to control temperature during all seasons. I then made rooms for storing logs and fruiting logs. These are made out of heavy plastic and nailed to the ceiling with 2 x 4’s. I had to find a way to introduce fresh air from out doors to come in and mix with the indoor air. I used plastic pipe and a small motor. My goal is to dig a trench underground and insert a pipe and then bring it into the building. I have not accomplished this yet. When this is compete, I should be able to maintain the temperature of the outdoor air intake and about the same temperature summer and winter. I had an inoculation table built and some fruiting racks. I then acquired a soak tank along with thermometers, hydrometers, and other necessary tools. The biggest part then was acquiring oak logs of the proper size and cut while the trees are dormant. This posed a problem because of the excessive amounts of snow we had in our region and therefore the number of logs I have is less than anticipated.

    I received some help financially from the DVR – Agribility and used some capital of my own to facilitate construction of workbenches, log racks, and immersion facility. I have not developed a mechanical way to move logs; however for now a 4 wheel cart is working fine. As my disability worsens, I will have to find a way to move logs by pushing a button. I have an electric cart that I can get around the building with.

    I described above how I renovated the hog barn including insulation, heating, humidity control, venting, lighting and internal arrangement. I found that drainage was not necessary because any water that sets on the floor is an added source of humidity that is needed in the raising of mushrooms.

    I found since I started out small in this business, a simple bookkeeping method is all I needed. I accomplished this by purchasing an accounting book and keeping close track of income and expenses. As this business grows, I anticipate purchasing a computer with a data base for record keeping.

    I have kept a written record of some of the failures and accomplishments that I have had since I began my operation. I find that for the most part the accomplishments rank number one. I find that in summer I seem to have too much humidity and in winter I look for ways to have more like watering down the logs more often with a hose.

    I have developed a market for selling the product in my area through the Farmers Market and through workshops and tours of my facility. To date I sell all the mushrooms that I can produce. I have not developed any special signage or recipes to date. I have relied on recipes that have been used before and include mushrooms; however I believe that the shiitake mushroom enhances flavor more than some other varieties.

    Process:
    The process that I use to raise mushrooms is a scientific one. You must keep records because what works in one situation may not work somewhere else. Inoculation, storage and fruiting will always be the same, but building environments differ and therefore production will not always be the same. This is a brief outline of the process of getting logs from the woods to the market.

    1) Bring logs in and cut to 40 inches
    2) After one week drill holes in logs about 6 inches apart and staggered to form a diamond pattern. Approximately 80 holes per log
    3) Inoculate the log
    4) Cover holes with cheese wax
    5) Pile logs and let them set for 6 to 8 months
    6) Soak logs 24 hours
    7) Set on racks to fruit (5 to 7 days they are ready to pick)

    People:
    - University Wisconsin Extension
    - Agribility DVR
    - Shiitake Growers of Wisconsin
    - Gerald Seibel – Bloomer Wisconsin
    - Field and Forest Products – Peshtigo, Wisconsin

    Results:
    My results were good. I am maintaining proper temperature and humidity. I am producing about a half pound of mushrooms a log.

    I have nothing to compare my results with personally, but other growers assure me that this is normal. My results are pretty much what I anticipated. As I mentioned previously the one thing I would do differently would e to try to acquire more logs sooner. I can still accomplish this but it will just take me longer to reach my goal of 1200 logs.

    Discussion:
    The amount of study and investigation that goes into starting a new project is something that I have learned. I have also learned about the hours of work it takes to remodel a facility to begin another operation. I learned that people are interested in what others do and accomplish. I also feel very satisfied and proud now that I have my operation up and running. In greatest barrier that I had to overcome was my handicap in getting around. I tried to remodel the facility and set up equipment to meet my needs.

    Advantages of implementing a project are learning something new and having a new business that will bring in a profit and one that I can do by myself at my own speed. I also enjoy talking to others and explaining my project. I look forward to helping other people begin a project of their own. This not only includes mushroom growing, but since I am a member of the Oneida County Livestock Association and the Oneida County Farmers Market, I am willing to help others in developing their farms for raising animals such as beef, hogs or chickens and in advertising them in their garden operations.

    The only disadvantage for me is getting my logs from the woods. I must rely on other people to help with that part of the project. I have had help with most phases of the project, but now I find that the only one I cannot do alone is getting the logs.

    I would tell other mushroom producers to watch the humidity. The very worse thing that could happen to a mushroom operation is for the logs to dry out. It will kill the log and you will have to start over.

    Economically my project will grow and I can make a reasonable amount of profit.

    Mushroom growing is kind to the environment. No harmful products are used at all. The only waste is when the log is used to its capacity and it can then be used for fuel or compost.

    I personally have expanded my social activities through this project. Be giving tours to adults and children I have developed more confidence in speaking to groups.

    OUTREACH
    I have reached the public in many different ways. I did not realize how many people would be interested in seeing my operation. It has been fun for me and for my family. Many of my family and friends have toured my building so often that they could probably take right over. At least once a week friends or family come over and want to see how the mushrooms are doing. I did not keep a record of the many times; I have gone through the demonstration for someone.

    Aside from this kind of communication, I attended an Agriculture and Extension committee meeting and explained my grant and my operation. Then in June the Agriculture and Extension committee decided to hold their meeting at our farm. They toured the facility along with other guests and then held their meeting. I served lunch at that time, which of course included several dishes containing the Shiitake Mushroom. I got several customers that day. I was in some newspaper articles that were in each of our two local papers. My family hosted a Fun with Plants day at our farm that included a tour. This was attended by about 50 people. My next formal project was a fruiting mushroom log at the Oneida County Fair. I had a rack built to hold it and used a spray bottle to keep the humidity. At night I covered it with plastic. The plastic was removed during open hours. Since I could not be there at all times, I had left some business cards and a brief outline of my operation. I had many phone calls the following week, and more customers, too. In the fall we had a pumpkin patch party which was attended by about 60 people. This also included a tour of the mushroom facility. I had a mushroom log in one of the local elementary schools and a third grade class at Crescent school. One of the students picked mushrooms as his project for gardening discussions. He came to the farm and toured and I set up a log for the class and they could watch the mushrooms grow. In the near future, I plan to have a sliding party for 4-H and handicapped children in the area. At that time, I will again have a mushroom tour. As I said earlier, I have no idea the number of people I have reached out to since I began this project a year and a half ago.

    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.