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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

No Hunting Necessary At Brown County Fungus Farm

Alan Barker is trying to turn his hobby of fruiting mushrooms at home into a food business. Currently, his many varieties of Oyster Mushrooms are flourishing.

These King Oyster Mushrooms fruiting in jars at the Brown County Fungus Farm are reaching maturity.

‘Tis The Season For Cultivation

There are many fungal delicacies fruiting this time of year:

  • Chanterelles come up early in the season.
  • Oyster Mushrooms grow on dead tree trunks.
  • Shaggy Manes like compost piles.
  • Chicken Of The Woods Mushrooms have a taste and texture similar to chicken.

But if mushroom hunting isn’t your thing, you can pick up some cultivated fungi from a grower like Alan Barker of Brown County Fungus Farm.

He started selling his mushrooms about a year ago when he decided to turn his hobby into a business. He says mycology is something very well suited to the hobbyist. “One thing I’ve learned is they’re more forgiving than non-forgiving,” he says. “It’s a whole lot of fun because when you wake up in the morning, they’re bigger by the time you go to bed, so you can almost literally see them growing.”

DIY ‘Shrooming

Barker is currently fruiting all sorts of oysters mushrooms in his home in rural Brown County, Indiana — Pearl, Blue, Golden and King Oyster Mushrooms.

He has custom designed each piece of equipment to fit his specific needs — from the grow tents to the way he accounts for water drainage.

The fungi are grown in jars and incubators. The jars are filled with hardwood sawdust he gets from the Helmsburg Saw Mill and mixed with a wheat bran supplement to add nitrogen and nutrients for increased yields.

Garden Helpers

Barker has also experimented with cultivating outdoor mushrooms like King Stropharias. To get them fruiting, he digs a hole in his garden, fills it with sawdust and plants the mushrooms spawns.

He says mushrooms are a beneficial addition to any garden. They help the other plants by fighting off competitor microorganisms, viruses, bacteria, mildew and mold. Additionally, the mycelium spreads through the soil loosening it. As it spreads, it seeks out nutrient pockets and distributes them throughout the mycelial network, improving the quality of the soil overall.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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