Since starting the farm in 2009, we’ve made a special effort to build a farm business that will stay local, that uses organic practices, and that uses the least amount of embodied energy to grow our mushrooms. We want our farm and local mushroom production to continue for a long time in the future – even with “energy descent,” a probable decline in energy in coming decades.
Mushrooms have an important place in transitioning toward energy descent. In his book “Food Rules,” Michael Pollan quotes a Chinese proverb “eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than what stands on two legs [fowl].” Mushrooms, like legumes and other protein-rich foods from lower on the food chain, require fewer resources than much of the meat we eat, and they are enormously healthy – you could even say medicinal. This is especially true of shiitake.
Our decision to use logs to grow mushrooms wasn’t an easy one, partly because log cultivation is almost certainly less profitable than “bag cultivation” – that is cultivation of mushrooms on straw, woods chips, or other materials in plastic bags. Yet we believe that foraging and log-cultivation are the most environmentally friendly, and will be the most resilient source of mushrooms in the future. Unlike the vast majority of mushrooms grown in the US, log-grown mushrooms require no sterilization, and the only bags we use are the ones that hold the mushroom seed or “spawn” that we buy every year to inoculate our mushroom logs.
You may have heard of cultivators who use coffee grounds and agricultural waste to produce mushrooms. This is a great thing, but they still have to sterilize these materials up to 250 degrees F., and most use a disposable polyethylene or polypropylene plastic bag for every five pounds of mushrooms, or the equivalent. A medium to large mushroom farm could easily use 6,000 bags in a year – just for the later stages of mushroom production. Again, log cultivation requires very few bags and the logs we use are sustainably harvested, and so are a renewable resource.
There are very few mushroom cultivators in the Twin Cities area. So however we grow our mushrooms, I hope you will support any of us by purchasing our mushrooms whenever you see them at Farmers Markets or grocery stores.