Mushroom farming is beneficial for the farmer, the consumer, and the planet. It can provide a dependable source of income with minimal investment in a very small space. Mushrooms are a tasty source of protein, fiber, and micronutrients, and demand for the crop is increasing as more people are making an effort to eat sustainable crops with a smaller carbon footprint instead of animal products.
How does an increase in mushroom consumption benefit our health or help with carbon emissions and climate change? How does mushroom farming benefit both the farmer and the consumer? The rest of this article will answer these questions and more.
How Much Will I Invest in Mushroom Farming?
A part-time farmer can harvest 2,400 pounds of mushrooms in a 100 square foot plot and earn up to $24,000 per year, working less than 10 hours per week. As long as the farmer chooses the right mushroom variety for the space and environment they have, the initial investment to get started can be less than $1000 because sterilization and expensive setup, while recommended, are unnecessary.
How Much Setup is Required for a Small Mushroom Farm?
The basic requirements to set up a hobby mushroom farm are inexpensive, and many people start one in an unused shed or garage. Each variety has different exact requirements for thriving and producing maximum crop yield, but all mushrooms need humidity, moderate temperatures, darkness, and a substrate to grow in.
Common substrate materials are inexpensive and include:
- Coffee Grounds
- Damp Logs
- Coconut Coir
How Much Space is Needed for a Profitable Mushroom Farm?
Mushrooms can be grown in racks stacked on top of one another or in bags hung from racks. This setup enables the farmer to utilize vertical farming methods, with up to 5 layers or more of mushrooms per rack, or three bags of mushrooms hung one over another.
How Much Time is Required for Mushroom Farming?
Unlike many other types of crops, mushrooms don’t require daily attention and care. Even during harvest, a mushroom farmer can expect to invest only three days per week and some types, such as oyster mushrooms, will produce a sellable crop in as little as a month or two.
What is a Mycelium?
Another time-saving aspect of mushroom farming comes from growing a strong mycelium. Once the mycelium, or underground network forming a “mother mushroom,” is formed, it can produce several waves of crops before it peters out and must be regrown.
How Profitable are Different Mushroom Varieties?
Types of mushrooms favored by foodies and gourmets, such as oyster and shiitake varieties, can retail for up to $12 per pound or be sold wholesale for $6 per pound. Since these types are also among the easiest to cultivate, they are popular starter crops for new mushroom farmers.
What Type of Mushrooms are Commonly Grown on Farms?
The most common types of mushrooms grown by small farms are:
- Golden Oyster
- Wine Cap
- Maitake (also known as Hen-of-the-Woods)
- Lion’s Mane
These varieties require little specialized equipment and/or special care, and command higher sales prices per pound than common white, button, or Bella mushrooms produced by large-scale and corporate farms.
What is Mushroom Compost?
Mushroom compost is a by-product of mushroom farming, which provides nutrients and reduces water waste for garden crops. In addition to profiting from selling delicious mushrooms, the spent substrate the mushrooms had been growing in can be sold, making this zero-waste product extra sustainable and profitable!
How Do Mushrooms Cut Down on Food Miles?
Professional and home chefs alike know that mushrooms are a delicate crop that is tastiest when prepared within a few days of harvest. Locally grown fresh mushrooms, sold at farmer’s markets and in the local produce sections of major supermarkets, have a lower carbon footprint than many other vegetables because they don’t travel well unless they are packaged and dried.
What Does the Increase in Veganism and Vegetarianism Mean for Mushroom Consumption?
Worldwide, the populations of vegans and vegetarians are growing, with veganism up 300% in the United States in the last 15 years, according to a 2020 study by Ipsos Retail Performance. Mushrooms are used as a tasty source of protein for both vegans and vegetarians and are even used to make some of the most convincing fake meat products by fermenting them to create mycoprotein.
Are Mushrooms a Healthy Food?
White, morelle and oyster mushrooms are 3% protein by weight, making them an excellent source of vegan protein. While all fresh mushrooms are high in water content, they are also an excellent source of fiber and are low in sugar, with little to no fat content. Mushrooms are a rare food that can be part of vegan, keto, paleo, low fat, and raw food diets!
Why are Mushrooms Important to a Vegan Diet?
Mushrooms are a great source of some vital nutrients that are rare in non-animal products. Dried shiitake mushrooms are high in B12 and UV treated mushrooms are the only non-fortified, vegan food high in vitamin D.
What Nutrients do Mushrooms Provide?
In addition to being a macronutrient blockbuster, mushrooms are a great source of potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Some types are high in rarer vitamins and minerals, as well.
Portabella mushrooms are high in selenium, morels are high in iron, and farming methods that expose mushrooms to UV lights, such as a gills-up drying method for shiitakes, can produce a mushroom with a whopping 46,000IU of vitamin D per 100 grams!
What Other Products Can be Made From Mushrooms?
As the vegan population grows, demand for vegan products, such as mushroom leather increases. Mycoworks, a company that produces mushroom leather in many colors and textures, claims that their product is completely carbon neutral while traditionally produced leather from cows releases 2.2 kg of carbon per 1 kg of finished leather into the atmosphere.