Market assessment for Northeast forest-grown mushrooms

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,564.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Allen Matthews
Chatham University

Annual Reports


  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forestry
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, cooperatives, marketing management, market study
  • Production Systems: permaculture
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships

    Proposal abstract:

    Forest-grown shiitakes have high value for growers but require years of intensive management to reach full production and access to reliable markets. Buyers, particularly restaurants and food co-ops, need a larger, more reliable supply which single growers have not yet been able to produce or guarantee. In a recent survey of 55 established shiitake growers, 89% indicated demand consistently exceeds supply in their region. Growers expressed a need to connect with other growers and hope to aggregate supplies of available shiitakes.

    Shiitakes provide a profitable method of diversifying farm income by utilizing low-value forestry by-products while creating opportunities for timber stand improvement. Once the freshly cut hardwood logs are inoculated, shiitake logs continue to fruit biannually for 4-5 years. Log-grown shiitakes enjoy strong demand and are higher in quality and value than mass-produced indoor-grown shiitakes.

    Farms involved in a previous USDA-NESARE project, “Cultivation of Shiitakes as an Agroforestry Crop” requested this market assessment to determine the appropriate mix of marketing, aggregation and distribution channels that will best advance their financial success.   Research will include a market assessment of current and planned levels of production, locations and volume of mushroom supply and demand. With assistance from the farmer advisers, a communication structure, marketing plan, and targeted aggregation sites for their consideration will be proposed.

    Through on-farm workshops and assessment surveys, farmers will participate in a market assessment to determine grower interest to collectively market their mushrooms through an agro-forestry network which aggregates supplies of quality forest-grown shiitakes and increases farm income.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will gather input from new and experienced forest grown shiitake growers to assess: 
    (a) their current and planned levels of production,
    (b) locations of current, proposed and additional markets,
    (c)  the volume of their current and projected sales and demand, and
    (d)  the specific production and marketing services needed to support their emerging agro-forestry mushroom ventures.

    According to recent reports, through SARE and USA Today, the NESARE project, “Cultivation of Shiitake Mushroom as  an Agroforestry Crop” has successfully demonstrated that shitake mushrooms are feasible for Northeast farmers to grow commercially. This project will focus on conducting a market assessment that will provide growers with information about available supplies of forest grown mushrooms and targeted markets with high demand for their products in the Northeast.

    In addition to conducting the market assessment with over 50 northeastern shiitake growers already identified in our mushroom growers list-serve, we will conduct a series of advanced workshops designed to identify other established and new mushroom farmers, who will also provide input for the assessment.

    The assessment will

    (1) help farmers identify the current and projected forest grown shiitake production levels,
    (2) identify potential sites for local hubs to aggregate and distribute mushrooms to markets,
    (3) share information on effective means to identify mushroom availability and inventory in order to maintain a consistent supply to customers, and
    (4) determine the growers level of interest in purchasing of common inputs to reduce overall costs.

    A series of advanced shiitake workshops, designed to identify 50 other established and new mushroom farmers willing to participate I our market assessment be conducted by our farmer advisers in various locations in the Northeast. Those workshops will focus on continued production education and lessons learned from previous shiitake research.

    The data and results complied from the assessment and workshops will help growers identify local markets and determine the mix of services that would lower their input costs, increase skills, secure markets, and increase income and profitability. Farmer advisors and project leader will use this information to determine what participating farmers identify as (1) the level of commercially available forest grown shiitakes, (2) a projected annual market demand, (3) highest priority sites for local aggregation and distribution hubs, and (4) the feasibility of the development of a formalized forest-grown shiitake marketing network.

    As part of the outreach strategy, this information will be shared with established and new growers through annual regional sustainable agriculture and NOFA conferences.In addition to training workshop participants on the most   current forest-grown mushroom cultivation practices, we eventually hope to demonstrate the value of continuing education through activities such as introducing growers to cultivation practices for other forest grown products that can be complementary to shiitake production if produced at a commercial scale creating additional products for growers.

    Information gained from this assessment will provide details needed by farm advisers and their supporters to move forward with their idea to develop a formalized Forest-Grown Mushroom Marketing Network with improved access to more stable supply and markets.

    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.