I didn’t expect 80 degree weather in Brown County, Indiana today, day two of helping set up a mushroom cultivation project on Tom Westgard’s farm. Tom is a small scale farmer willing to try some new things. Situated on 12 acres, mostly woodlot, Tom has turkeys, chickens, Guinea Fowls, and pigs. Because of the woodlot Tom has access to Oak, Maple and Beech trees, the needed maintenance on the woodlot meant Tom had to take out some trees so others would reach maturity and stay straight.
Tom’s only been farming for a year, but in that time he’s managed to experiment and educate himself in a number of animal husbandry techniques, make some mistakes, and learn a lot. “The future is local,” says the New York Times, Small Scale Farming is bringing communities closer and allowing new techniques to proliferate. The Polar Vortex this last winter killed off his six hives of bees, wiping out his honey production, expenses are only allowing him to replace one hive.
Tom managed to produce about 100 bolts, four foot logs, 4 – 8 inches in diameter that are used for log grown shiitake production. Paoli based Magnificent Mushrooms supplied the spawn, Three bags of Shiitake, three of Oyster mushroom, and two of Stropharia. Tom had a very limited budget, like many of his farming projects he’s had to start small. The budget allowed for just the spawn, and I provided the tools, knowledge, and back.
Tom’s also putting in two Wine Cap Stropharia beds, and inoculating 50 Oyster Mushroom logs, experimenting with the “Totem method” and also beginning experimentation with the production of Oyster Mushrooms on burlap/coffee substrate. While a year is a long time to wait for his first crop of shiitakes, it’s expected that his oyster mushrooms and wine cap stropharias may be producing by fall. Production of mushroom fruiting production logs is best done in the spring, but the expansion of the Wine Cap Stropharia beds is expected to also happen in the fall.
A hundred log annual production mushroom business will supplement Tom’s income by a minimum of $10,000 in profit over five years, as well as paying for his time at $12.00 an hour, according to this Cornell University Study and best practices guide. Already Westgard has spoken to restaurateurs in nearby Nashville and they await next spring for his Shiitakes to produce their first crop.
We’ll continue to monitor Tom’s progress and report back.
Coming tomorrow – Brown County – Lessons Learned