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Shiitake Mushrooms: A Commercial Forest Farming Enterprise

Workshop participants examining forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms

Workshop participants examine forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms. (Photo credit: Ken Mudge / Cornell University and Allen Matthews / Chatham University)

Helping landowners care for their forests and strengthen local economies is an important goal of the U.S. Forest Service, USDA National Agroforestry Center and their partnering organizations.

According to Ken Mudge of Cornell University, any farmer with a woodlot and the drive to diversify should consider forest-cultivated shiitake mushrooms. They are well suited to the increasing demand for locally produced, healthy foods.

With a retail price of $12 to $20 per pound, the demand for shiitakes is considerable throughout the Northeast. As an added benefit, growing mushrooms encourages landowners to learn more about managing their forests.

Using freshly cut logs of oak, beech, sugar maple, hornbeam or musclewood, Mudge says that a landowner with a solid production plan can grow one-half to one pound of mushrooms per log in two to three harvests each year for three to four years. Thus, he believes that forest cultivation of mushrooms not only produces delicious food, but is also one of the most reliably profitable non-timber forest products grown in a forest farming system.

Working with a number of partners, Mudge first held a shiitake inoculation workshop in 2009. Although it was unusually cold and icy, 40 people attended. Encouraged by this interest, Mudge and others applied for and received funding from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to teach interested landowners how to start commercial-scale shiitake mushroom farming.

Unlike one-off workshops, this effort included hands-on training over two years in both the mechanics of growing shiitake mushrooms and how to start a shiitake farming enterprise. A total of 400 participants from eight states participated in the first year.

Since these initial workshops, a number of additional efforts have come about. Several farmer advisors from this project have gone on to successfully acquire SARE farmer grants to research key questions they confronted in their own shiitake operations. Mudge’s group also obtained USDA funds to diversify forest mushroom production by developing production methods and running on-farm trials of three other types of gourmet mushrooms: Lion’s Mane, Wine Cap and Maitake.

With funding from USDA, these creative scientists and farmers are providing strategic research and outreach to catalyze a forest-grown mushroom industry. The Cornell-lead project is currently working to educate farmers on methods of mushroom cultivation through the Cornell Small Farms Program.

Workshop participants inoculating logs for forest grown shiitake mushroom production

Workshop participants inoculate logs for forest grown shiitake mushroom production. (Photo credit: Ken Mudge / Cornell University and Allen Matthews / Chatham University)

18 Responses to “Shiitake Mushrooms: A Commercial Forest Farming Enterprise”

  1. Christine Mellon says:

    How do I find out more on how to start this kinda of farming? I have a wooded lot and would love to start asap.

    Christine Mellon

  2. Randy says:

    Can these be grown in a South Eastern wooded area, hardwoods, or pines?

  3. Mark Ringenberg says:

    I am organizing an Earth day Arbor day program for April 25, 2016. Any way we can have a demo of this for our program.

  4. Gordon Garrison says:

    We have done this in the thinning process of oak savanna restoration here in Iowa

  5. Dennis Muller says:

    This has been on my list of trials for a couple of years now. I work for a larger timber company and would like to put this to work in some of our leave tree areas.

    Thank you,


  6. Cara says:

    Will shiitakes (or Lion’s Mane, Wine Cap and Maitake for that matter) grow in Florida forests? How far south?

  7. John says:

    How does one get started? I have 600 acres of hardwood forest in the Mississippi delta, and seem to grow mushrooms pretty easy.

  8. Eve Taylor says:

    I have just purchased property in south Alabama with pulp wood pine I know most mushrooms require hardwood. If I studded the land with hardwood used for fire wood could I enoculate them and leave them in the forest to grow. We have a lot of natural mushrooms (not safe to eat growing on our grass land)Where can I find the inoculate?

  9. Sharon says:

    I would be interested in what mushrooms are most suitable/profitable for coastal California.

  10. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Christine Mellon – to find out more about this kind of farming, please visit NAC’s forest farming webpage or the Cornell’s mushrooms webpage.

  11. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Randy – Log-grown mushrooms are grown on hardwood logs, but are often grown under conifers, which provide year-round shade.

  12. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Mark Ringenberg – The National Agroforestry Center can help with your request:

  13. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Cara – Yes, shiitake mushrooms are grown in Florida forests. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office to find out more about what mushrooms are most suitable for your area or contact the USDA National Agroforestry Center for additional contact information:

  14. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @John – to get started, do some additional background reading, watch some videos, or sign up for a workshop.

  15. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Eve Taylor – several companies sell inoculate for specific edible mushroom varieties, suitable for growing on logs.

  16. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Sharon – contact your local Cooperative Extension office to find out more about what mushrooms are most suitable for your area or contact the USDA National Agroforestry Center for additional contact information:

  17. Steven DeRaedt says:

    I live in MI and have a tree farm in Mid-MI and am currently udertaking a harvest of beech, maple and oak and would have a lot of stock to begin to cultivate mushrooms. how can the inoculate be purchased?

  18. Mushroomsite says:

    What is the ideal elevation and temperature of forest for cultivating shiitake mushrooms by using forest farming system?

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