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Shiitake Mushrooms: Non-Traditional Forest Products, Part 1

| 10/4/2016 12:22:00 PM

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We got involved with Shiitake Mushrooms through our Agricultural Cooperative Extension Agency. This is how our farm became "The Mushroom Hut @ Fox Farms".

Back in 2003, our local office started a program to help the traditional tobacco farmer transition into some other type of crop. Shiitakes were considered, and still are, a specialty crop. What they proposed for the farmer was edible and medicinal mushrooms. That way, there were two avenues a farmer could pursue with his mushrooms. You can go with “edible” and sell to farmers markets, restaurants, and health food stores. “Medicinal” you can pursue the herbal stores and sometimes you can reach out to acupuncturists office and clinics. A diversified farm would do both!

The Ag office proposed to the farmer an agreement. The Ag office would provide the farmer enough organic mushroom spore to inoculate 25 logs ( 3 to 4 feet long by 4 to 8 inches in diameter) in exchange for data collected by the farmer on how well the mushrooms produced. The farmer had to agree to keep approximately 200 to 250 logs for research. The spore was being provided by NC A & T, a college associated with our NC Agricultural Extension Agency. Dr. Omon was in charge of this program. The farmer would be given bags of spore with batch numbers only. When giving their data information, the farmer would refer to the batch number. This was, and is ongoing, research to see which strains of Shiitake do best in which areas of North Carolina.

Which Trees Can Be used for Mushroom Logs?

Most preferred is: Red and White Oaks. Sweetgum is also indicated. The reason these are preferred over others is that they will produce/last longer due to their high wood density and strong bark — you don’t want the bark to be too thick! Here at the farm we have used Maple, Beech, Ash, Cherry and Birch.

Ash takes longer to produce fruit. The others are good producers but the bark doesn’t hold up long — experiment to see what works for you and keep records (a regular calendar is great to write your notes on). Make sure the bark is in good condition whichever trees you decide to use.

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