Last Friday, University students and community members gathered for a mushroom growing workshop under a clear sky and warm sun at the farm. Around 25 people attended and completed the first step in shiitake mushroom cultivation together.
Michael Klug, the farm’s assistant director, and the Ann Robinson, C’19, Farm Club’s student president, led the workshop with the help of Vanessa Moss, C’20; Chris Hornsby, C’19; and Aaron Deardoff, C’21. These students learned the mushroom implantation technique—a process called inoculation—during a field trip to Sequatchie Cove Creamery and wanted to share their knowledge with the Domain.
Most of the participants didn’t have much farming experience or were unfamiliar with growing mushrooms, but they were eager to learn the process and take advantage of the hands-on opportunity.
The participants took turns with the tools and learned the most effective tactics by observing one another.
“The process was fun,” Aaron said, “You could tell a lot of people were new to this type of activity, and everyone who wanted to give it a shot was able to physically contribute to the end result.”
The group inoculated 37 logs in a little over an hour.
Even with their fast work, the mushroom growing process will last for another eight months. The logs must incubate in a moist environment for six months; a step that requires little human involvement. Following the incubation period, harvest season will allow workers to get hands-on again for a eight-week procedure.
“[Mushroom cultivation] is a long process that takes patience. Like anything in agriculture, you must commit to the project to see it through and reap the benefits,” Michael said.
The shiitake workshop provides an tangible example on how the University Farm is more than a one-person job. Sometimes you’re working on a task that will be completed by other hands half a year down the road, and sometimes you’re finishing up a job someone else started.
Farming requires cooperation and communication; it takes a community to feed a community. Whoever harvests the mushrooms months from now should keep in mind the work put in before them.
Check back with the blog in a few weeks to learn about the inoculation/cultivation process.