Mycoculture: A Different Sort of Farming



Jarrod E. Stephens

   Farmers have always been known to grow crops that are tried and true and sometimes take ventures to explore new crops to diversify their harvests. In February of 2020, just a few weeks before the whole world seemingly went on lockdown, I was privileged to attend a forestry conference where I attended a class on how to grow mushrooms on logs.

   When I think of mushrooms, the wild morels are the first to cross this country boy’s mind. I just love finding those treats in the spring woods and making a meal out of them. The class I attended was about growing shiitake mushrooms. At that point I had only heard of shiitake mushrooms but had never considered them as a viable crop that I could grow.

   The presentation took the participants step-by-step through the process of preparing and inoculating logs from which the shiitake mushrooms can grow. Needless to say, I was impressed and totally convinced that I could indeed add mushroom farming to the list of crops that I could grow and enjoy.

   Little did we know that just a few weeks later schools would be shut down leaving teachers and students doing their work from home. Like most other parents I searched for ways to keep my boys engaged and learning every day. Then I had a “well duh” moment where I recalled the shiitake mushroom class I had attended. I retrieved all the brochures from the class and found the contact information of the instructor and he directed me to a few businesses that sold the mushroom spawn that I’d need to get started. A mushroom farmer was born.

   After ordering the shiitake mushroom spawn from, my sons and I cut down a small oak tree and began preparing the logs for inoculation. Of course, since I was new to the entire process, I corresponded with the gentleman who had taught the course and asked him several “stupid” questions. I was not going to be outdone but a fungus.

   For any of you who may remember being taught how to properly plant and tend vegetables, sometimes the smallest details can mean the difference between success or a waste of time. Much like raising any crop, growing shiitake mushrooms is not an overnight project. Beans take about 65-70 days and boy was I surprised to find out that my mushrooms could take a full year to produce. We inoculated the oak logs with shiitake sawdust spawn, placed the logs in a shady location and left them to do their thing.

   Fast forward to the spring of 2021 and just like my instructor told me, the shiitake began to emerge from the logs. To activate the logs, we soaked them overnight and within five days shiitake were springing from each of the holes where we had inoculated the logs. That moment was a victorious one for me and my boys since we had indeed learned a new skill.

   If you’ve read this far and you are at least a little curious if you could indeed raise mushrooms as well, the answer is “yes” if you have access to some trees and you are willing to learn. Unlike traditional crops, growing shiitake mushrooms takes very little space. Thankfully, you don’t have to go on the mushroom farming mission alone. The University of Kentucky has some awesome resources for beginners to use.

   To chronicle our shiitake journey we created a YouTube video and posted it on our G Brothers Outdoors channel. The video shows the steps necessary for inoculating logs. In the coming weeks we will be posting a new video showing the progress of our logs.

   If you are in the mood for a new growing adventure, then mycoculture may be the journey you are searching for. Do your research and visit one of the following sites to order your spawn and get started. or