Mushroom cultivation is a growing trend.
Mushrooms are actually fast growing, can grow year round indoors in less space than other crops and bring a good price per pound.
So you might consider becoming a mushroom farmer. If you have a basement, extra room or closet, You can start out growing mushrooms in your home. In fact, you can produce 2,500 pounds of mushrooms per year in an area the size of a small bedroom, around 100 square feet.
You can grow approximately 2,500 pounds of mushrooms in 100 square feet per year.
There are a number of popular mushrooms to grow for profit, however this article focuses on how to grow oyster mushrooms.
Oyster Mushroom Price
Naturally prices will vary, but to give you an idea, oyster mushrooms are selling for around $6 wholesale and $12 retail per pound, fresh. So if you only sold them wholesale, such as to a local restaurant or gourmet food distributor, that’s $15,000 in revenue.
Wholesale Prices of Oyster Mushrooms
Fresh – $3-$6/lb
Dried – $12-$16/lb
Retail Prices of Oyster Mushrooms
For more pricing resources, visit our resources page.
Fresh or Dried Mushrooms
Fresh mushrooms can last up to a week if refrigerated dry and unwashed. But if you end up with more fresh mushrooms than your market demands on any given harvest, mushrooms can easily be dried and rehydrated for use.
Dried oyster mushrooms can last a couple years in cool dry storage. 1)
One of our Planting for Retirement members has done so well with growing oyster mushrooms that she’s currently expanding her production space.
Sarah Brackney shares her experience next.
I’m a Mushroom Farmer
Sarah Brackney never imagined she’d become a mushroom farmer. I mean, that’s just not something most young girls grow up dreaming about, and especially for Sarah, because for years she even killed cactus. But something just clicked when she was 22.
Though Sarah has a BAS in Psychology, when her second daughter was born she decided couldn’t spend one more day in an office, away from her children, just gardening on the weekends. So, Sarah and her husband dug in and embarked on their homesteading venture.
Sarah said she got into mushrooms because the Amish have saturated the traditional produce market where she lives in Indiana.
“I am the only grower with 75 miles and mushrooms can be very profitable.”
Sarah shares her step-by-step process for growing oyster mushrooms:
1. RESEARCH: Order a catalog from Field and Forest Products, (or visit online). 1) They have beautiful descriptions and photos of mushroom types, spawn types, temp requirements, pasteurizing methods, and mushroom substrate selections, etc. Pick a type to grow and match it to your substrates. (Mushroom substrate is a growing medium, like soil is for plants).
“Oyster mushrooms are the easiest and fastest to grow.”
2. OYSTER MUSHROOMS: Oysters are easiest and fastest to grow. If you have dry, mold-free straw available, use that with grain spawn. Grain spawn is grain that has been sterilized and then inoculated with mushroom mycelium. Mushroom mycelium is the root system of mushroom fruits. The options of mushroom substrates for growing mushrooms are endless!
“Mushrooms are called ‘fruits’, but they actually aren’t. They are more closely related to animals than plants!”
3. CONTAINERS: Purchase food-grade buckets with lids. Drill 1/2 inch holes in buckets, starting 2 inches from bottom. Drill in diamond pattern around each bucket, holes about 8 inches apart.
4. STRAW: Chop straw into pieces about 3 inches long. I run over it with my mower and collect in a pull-behind grass bag. You can also use a plastic garbage can and weed eater.
5. TIE: Put straw in pillow cases and tie up with long pieces of twine.
6. SUBMERGE bags of straw in water that has reached 160 degrees. Weigh down to keep submerged for 50 minutes . Do not let temp raise above 180 degrees, as this will render the straw unfit for growth. I began using a metal 55 gallon drum with propane burner underneath and a candy thermometer, and have moved to a DIY electric pasteurizer made with a water heater element. You could use a water bath canner for smaller batches.
7. DRAIN straw on a clean surface until no water droplets fall when it is squeezed. (I use a slanted formica table top).
8. FILL sanitized buckets (rub down insides with 90% isopropyl) with alternating layers of straw and spawn. These layers should be pressed down. Less air pockets, less chance for contamination. Once full, immediately place lid on bucket.
“Less air pockets, less chance for contamination.”
9. LABEL bucket with mushroom type, mushroom substrate type, ratio (begin with 10% spawn), and date.
10. PLACE in an area that maintains about 70 degree temp and 75% humidity. Mist with water a couple times a day.
11. AFTER 3 WEEKS, you should see white mycelium growing in the holes. When pinning occurs (mushrooms start to fruit), decrease temp to about 65 and increase humidity to about 80-90%. Increase FAE (fresh air exchange), as oyster mushrooms breathe in oxygen and exhale co2, like we do. If CO2 levels are too high, stems get long and tough, and caps are puny. Harvest before edges curl, by twisting fruits off of bucket.
Note: Oysters release millions of spores if harvested after edges curl. These aren’t good to breathe in in large quantities, so consider buying a p100 mask to harvest around mature fruits.
Also, you want to protect your home or building surfaces from moisture. Cover area with plastic to prevent water damage or mold growth. Clean the area weekly to reduce potential contamination, and always wash hands before harvesting or entering the area.
- Mushroom spawn
- Substrate, like straw
- Method of pasteurization
- Containers to grow in
- Rubbing alcohol
- Method to chop straw
- Clean surface to drain straw
- Spray bottle
- P100 mask recommended
Sarah sells 5″x6″, 5oz clamshells to grocery stores for $4 per container.
For market, it will be a paper bag and her pricing will vary per grocery at wholesale..
Sarah sells her mushrooms wholesale from 2.60 – 3$ per 5 oz. Paper bags are for sale by weight the customer chooses, using a legal trade scale for market.
Start Small and Experiment
Sarah Brackney started in her basement, and keeps expanding.
“The first avenue I picked was a couple local Amish grocers and meat processors. They have refrigerated cases to display, established customer bases, and wholesale licensure, so it’s all that’s needed.”
By the time they’re at full production in their new space, their production will be up to 100 pounds per week.
“I have been growing small scale for a nearby Amish grocery and individuals (and for ourselves). I am currently scaling up the operation for commercial production.”
We highly recommend an experimental year of growing anything new before you decide on going bigger. If you’re thinking of growing mushrooms this is a good time to try your hand at it. It will benefit you to try growing in several different mediums. For example, you might try some on a log outdoors and another batch indoors in a basement or under the house. Keep track of planting date and the progress of the “fruit” to see which batch do best. The growing medium can affect the taste, growth rate and overall mushroom quality.
To Start a Mushroom Farm
If you try hobby growing and enjoy it, then you can considering mushroom farming.
Sarah says, “Commercial production indoors (i.e., maximizing growth per space) entails much more than hobbyist, including exhaust and intake systems, negative pressure, long-lasting materials, a sump basin, etc.”
“Hobbyists can start in growing with only a room, a light, water, and buckets, but that’s only for small batches. Otherwise, mushroom will gobble up the oxygen.”
Selling Your Mushrooms
To get expand your knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in your local area, it’s highly advisable to visit your local produce stands and farmers markets. You can even try your hand at selling some if you end up with an overflow of anything you’re growing. To help you once you get ready to sell your crops, large or small, you will find this guide on how to sell at farmer’s markets really helpful.
Another avenue for selling specialty mushrooms such as oyster, is to check with the nearest local fine dining restaurants, or better yet, food distributor where you can sell more in bulk quantities with just one stop. You earn less per sale, but you make more sales at once without having to drive around town for numerous smaller deliveries yourself.
Mushroom Spores and Mushroom Growing Kits
You can also find mushroom spores, aka mycelium plug spawn on Amazon. These are currently retailing for around $16 per 100 mushroom plugs.
If you want to start super simple, you might try a mushroom kit.
Mushroom Growing for a Hobby
If you just want to grow mushrooms for your family’s enjoyment, it’s easier! For more on growing oyster mushrooms in different methods and substrates, especially for hobby growing, you’ll find more good information and videos in this article on GardensAll.
Sarah recently shared a lovely photo of her newly harvested shitake mushrooms in the Planting for Retirement community. Great growing, Sarah!
Thanks to Sarah Brackney, contributing writer and photos: Sarah Brackney has a BAS in Psychology, but Sarah ended up back in the garden. Sarah’s dream is to produce 80% of what her family eats on our farm. Also, to raise kiddos with survivalist skills and knowledge of foraging. And to make enough growing and selling shrooms to pay for my husband’s life and health insurance, buy our kids first cars, take a yearly week-long vacation, and put back money for our retirement. You can find Sarah on Facebook at Mud Creek Mushrooms.