Growing mushrooms, for fun and profit, has been the focus of a workshop currently being offered at the
Grassroots Learning Centre & Forest Farm in Port Hardy.This is the second time the workshop has been given,
says Coordinator Dawn Moorhead."The workshops involve growing mushrooms in the forest on logs,"
Moorhead said, which depending on the type, ranges "from impossible to fairly easy."On the menu this time are
shiitake, oyster and lion's mane (which tastes like lobster)."Log-grown mushrooms are scrumptious," she said.
The workshop began the last week in February with participants preparing the laying beds which included de-
limbing alders and cutting them into lengths.The first week in March, growers innoculated drill holes in the logs;
filled them with spawn; and sealed them with hot cheese wax.Moorhead explained that mushrooms feed off the
lignin in the alder logs.Participants will return later this year to tend the logs as well as water them; erect a
shade cloth canopy; maintain deer fence, and whatever else is necessary. (Both deer and slugs are predators
for mushrooms.)"For the North Island, it is the perfect food crop", because "they require shade and moisture,"
Moorhead said. In the end, 'mushroom cooperative' participants will share in the harvest.Pam and Jim McIntee,
from Hyde Creek, are two of the people taking advantage of the program."Pam and I are into food security and
producing our own food, rather than having it trucked in," Jim said.In addition to being just plain delicious,
mushrooms have solid nutritional and medicinal value and their cultivation supports management for forest
health. Mushrooms are a high-value niche crop, especially when compared to mushrooms grown indoors, and
there is money to be made."Starting a commercial mushroom enterprise requires low investment for high
return. Growing mushrooms is accessible - we have the forests, the space, the alders," Moorhead said. Not
only can it be a sustainable livelihood and advance food sovereignty on the North Island, growing mushrooms
is compatible with lowering carbon footprints and minimizing climate change.Production of these mushrooms
can also help the North Island hospitality industry by providing fresh produce to restaurants and hosting
tours. The Grassroots Learning Centre's forest farm is about one acre in size. It includes cultivated
huckleberries, salal, a shiitake mushroom laying yard, elderberries, forest strawberries, rice root, comfrey and
several experimental crops such as wasabi.The term "forest farm" refers to an area that is based on
permaculture (a system of agriculture centred around using the patterns and features observed in natural
ecosystems), but brings plants to the forest instead of the forest to the farm or garden.Next on the agenda will
be fruit - on dates to be determined.