Those with a love for mushrooms, about 30 people, got a hands-on lesson Friday on how to grow and sell their own Shiitake mushrooms.
Dr. Omon Isikhuemhen from North Carolina A&T University, has taught the class at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office for the past eight years.
“Surry County is most lucky in that you have good trees and good people,” said Isikhuemhen. “We want you to be able to grow so many mushrooms that you can’t eat them all and will need to sell them.”
He said growing mushrooms is an inexpensive project, except for the mushroom spawn, which can be costly. But, through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, the spawn is free to growers who will agree to inoculate 200 logs. That caused a big groan in the room and only a handful in the class said they were willing to do that many logs. He said it has to be 200 logs so that the USDA can count them as a grower.
“You cannot have three logs and then call me for advice,” said Iskihuemhen with a laugh.
Class participants were asked to bring in 4-foot oak logs that were 4- to 8-inches in diameter.
Carl Massey, who came to take the class again, attended the first class eight years ago. He has been growing them ever since. He also grows Portobella mushrooms and has 10 acres of grapes. Massey said because of an ice storm, he is down to only 40 logs now. He came back to class in order to get more spawn.
Massey said when he first started out eight years ago, the process hadn’t been streamlined, but now there are some new tools, such as an inoculator and a drill bit that is the perfect size to drill holes in the logs.
“They’ve learned and we’ve learned,” said Massey.
He said he takes what few mushrooms are growing now and dries them out before freezing them. He said when he takes them out of the freezer and rehydrates them, they taste just as good as fresh.
Dwight Seal, who was also at the class, has 400 to 500 logs that are producing mushrooms. He sells his mushrooms to local restaurants.
Seal actually started out growing mushrooms while attending Appalachian State University 25 years ago. He loves mushrooms so much, that he likes to go foraging for wild mushrooms.
Elkin’s Mayor Lestine Hutchens said she wanted to take the class because it sounded like a fun thing to learn how to do.
“I love mushrooms. When you stop learning, you stop living. When I was working, I never had time to do stuff like this. And, you meet such interesting people,” said Hutchens.
Extension Agent Joanna Radford said everyone that signed up for the class showed up.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with the turnout today. I’m very excited to see so many people interested in growing mushrooms,” said Radford.
Those who will become mushroom growers were encouraged to sell their mushrooms to Pilot Mountain Pride.
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