Barters and Small Business: Finding and Selling Wild Mushrooms

The Barters and Bootstraps column shares success stories of people who barter and open small business ventures, includes stories about finding wild mushrooms and selling mushrooms for profit.

| April/May 1996

The Barters and Bootstraps column shares success stories in barters and small business ventures. (See the photos and mushroom illustrations in the image gallery.)

Barters and Small Business Success Stories

If someone were to tell you that you could be making $200, $300, or even $500 a day picking mushrooms, your first thought might be: "Are these the same kind that were passed around campus 20 years ago?" Not to worry. Commercial trading in wild edible and decidedly non-psychedelic mushrooms has grown tremendously in the last ten years. A little research, attention to detail, a willingness to learn, and some woods sense are all you need to become proficient in this trade. The most prolific commercial activity occurs in the Northwest, but there are marketable mushrooms in virtually every area of North America, and pickers at the height of the season can make thousands of dollars in your own small business venture.

I am often asked, "If these mushrooms are so valuable, why isn't somebody growing them in their barn?" Some, such as the shiitake mushroom, can be cultivated, however, the mushrooms listed here are generally mycorrhizal in nature. In other words, they are dependent upon the root system of the trees that they are growing under. If you can figure out a way to duplicate those roots in a barn, you'll make a fortune. Until then, we've just got to get out there and find them.

Getting Started in Your Wild Mushroom Small Business 

Do not attempt to go out and pick a mushroom to eat without getting someone knowledgeable to confirm identification of that species. Picking and eating without proper study is literally a prescription for disaster, given the number of poisonous varieties that often look perplexingly like their culinary counterparts. If you do not know anyone who can help, contact the North American Mycological Association in Ann Arbor, MI. They have chapters all over the country with many people willing to help out. Turn to the next page in this issue for a brief guide to some of the market favorites.

If you are in an area like the Northwest where much commercial activity occurs, it would behoove you to find a buying station to see what species they are taking in. Most buyers will purchase more than one species even though they are in a particular area for a particular mushroom. These buying stations are much like clearinghouses of information, and good places to track down pickers coming out of the brush to ask them some questions. Don't bother asking a mushroom picker exactly where his patch is; you are likely to get directions to the local dump. Mushroom patches are closely guarded secrets, especially as some species produce in the same spot year after year.

11/28/2017 10:22:37 PM

Shakespeare 11/28/2017 I have three different types of mushrooms on my property. I continue to look for more. I usually let them die out or just throw them away. This year they have doubled in growth. I am interested in learning more about them and what to do with them. I have the ringless honey mushroom, oyster mushroom, and the other I am not sure about. Looking for help in Beaumont, Texas

8/16/2017 2:48:14 AM

I'm chanterelle picker in South Louisiana need some one to by my mushrooms I can pick 50 pounds every afternoon if I could get rid of them

11/26/2016 5:45:53 PM

I am a mushroom/truffle picker in Washington/Oregon and looking for buyers.I prefer to have a source prior to picking any quantities to preserve the environment. email

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