What to do?

Larry Caldwell larryc at teleport.com
Mon Aug 31 02:38:35 EST 1998


In article <1998082723190300.TAA09146 at ladder01.news.aol.com>, 
susan112 at aol.com says...

> The mushrooming business sounds great, but I have heard of a downside from a
> guy locally who tried to grow shittake outside on oak logs as a business.  He
> said the seasonal nature of the crops nearly did him in as he could not get a
> buyer for just a couple crops a year. The buyers he encountered wanted so much
> a week, every week, guaranteed or no deal.

This may be a real problem if there is no wild mushroom market in your 
area.  In the PNW, mushroom buyers aggressively comb the woods when 
mushrooms are in season, and literally thousands of pickers sell to them.  
The annual wild mushroom crop is worth millions of dollars.  The USFS 
sells commerical picking permits for entry to federal forests, and sets 
up special camps just for the pickers.

A happy side effect is that almost all supermarkets will stock several 
varieties of mushrooms when they are in season.  I have bought oyster 
mushrooms, shiitake, chanterelles and morels at Safeway and Albertsons in 
addition to the normal agaricus bisporus that is commonly cultivated.  
PNW consumers are getting pretty sophisticated about a variety of 
mushrooms.

> He ended up constructing a building in which he could control tempurature and
> humidity, a very expensive building.  Now he has year-long consistent
> production and a viable business.   He said that sticking with it and  getting
> to that point was very difficult for him and he felt that the people promoting
> shittake failed him by not pointing out the downsides.

If you want to sell to grocery jobbers, you are pretty much stuck going 
into industrial production like that.  Wild mushroom buyers will take 
what you have when you have it.  If there is none in your immediate area, 
you might think about shipping crates by next-day UPS.  Mushrooms are 
quite durable, and will take some shipping.  There is certainly enough 
money in the transaction to make shipping worthwhile.  Most wild 
mushrooms are exported, and end up in the European or Asian market 
anyway.

> What would be the potential downside of the cottonwood venture for the
> landowner I know who might be interested?  

I certainly wouldn't recommend spending big bucks right off the bat.  If 
he has the cottonwood, and has the time to log cabin bolts, and maybe 
enough water to moisten them once in a while, he can grow nice shipments 
of pleurotus or shiitake on a seasonal basis.  There IS a market out 
there.  Mushrooms can be surprisingly easy to grow, but industrial 
production requires heavy investments in time and facilities.  There is 
no reason a small outdoor operation can't be profitable almost 
immediately with next to no startup investment.  

-- Larry



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