Mushroom program slated for Northern Tier
Fungus fans won’t want to miss an upcoming program at Northern Tier Regional Library where they can learn all about growing their own tasty delicacies right in their backyard.
The program, Cultivating Shiitake Mushrooms, is scheduled for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 1.
Tony Miga, director of Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus Farm, will lead the talk on cultivating shiitake mushrooms and give attendees all the information they need to add the popular food to their own gardens.
“It’s relatively easy and not hugely labor intensive,” Miga said. “The scale we grow them at is about 50 to 75 logs every year, but you could do five logs and have enough mushrooms to feed a family of four through the summer months.”
Miga was part of the first cohort that came through the university’s Master of Sustainability program in 2012. After working in both youth and adult education, he found the idea of working outside with his hands to create something tangible appealing. After graduating from the sustainability program, he started working for the campus farm director, and once he retired, Miga was hired as his replacement.
They started growing shiitake mushrooms on the Eden Hall campus about seven years ago, he said, as part of a partnership with the USDA to examine supplemental income streams for small farms.
“We’ve been doing it ever since,” Miga said.
Growing shiitake mushrooms makes great sense for smaller farms, Miga explained, because the mushrooms grow on logs, most farms have shade to spare and it’s a fairly high-value crop when selling at farmers markets or to local restaurants. Outside of injecting the logs with mushroom spawn, it’s not a labor-intensive crop to grow and doesn’t require special equipment or tools.
Shiitake mushrooms grow well in Western Pennsylvania so long as the gardener or farmer has a shady place and can keep the logs damp.
“You have to select the appropriate strain, but yes, there are plenty of strains of shiitakes that do quite well here,” he said. “The growing season is roughly May to October, and in that window you can fruit each log you inoculate twice in a season. Each one will produce a quarter-pound to a half-pound of mushrooms.”
Miga said anyone with an interest in mushrooms should stop by. He’ll share tips, advice on where to go for spawn and answer questions.