The Mushroom Project
To create a sustainable gourmet mushroom growing project using locally sourced products and creating an enclosed environmental loop. The goal is to expand from mushrooms and grow food for our culinary tech class and a local restaurant, which in turn will help support and grow our project.
We began with three blocks of mushroom spawn, blue oyster, white oyster, and lion’s mane mycelium. Our goal was to inoculate our own growing substrate using local products with the goal of creating our own mycelium blocks that we could multiply and keep growing blocks while allowing some to fruit and in order to produce mushrooms. We started with coffee grains from a local coffee shop mixed with wood pellets produced in New Brunswick; unfortunately, the coffee shop grounds were not kept clean, and all the blocks failed and were contaminated with blue mould. We then began using spent grain from a local brew pub, as it is a byproduct of the brewing process and is considered a waste product. We would receive the spent grain, which was pasteurized in the process and mixed with our spawn and wood pellets. We have had great success with this mix, and in our 4 months have taken 3 original blocks and created 15 blocks and fruited 6 additional blocks for a total of 21 blocks. We now have a stock of blocks that each will create 3 additional blocks kept in our growing closet. We are now using the spent blocks to enrich our soil and have started a micro green tent and a green wall to grow other food sources for our school.
Reflection & Celebration
The students loved the first time they got to try mushrooms, cooked properly of course. Everyone hates mushrooms until they taste great mushrooms done well. Most of our students are suburban and urban, so only 2 or 3 out of the 20 had ever done any growing. The process of growing mushrooms is tricky, as even someone’s breath can contaminate a whole batch. So our failures made the success all the greater as students came and checked each day to see the mycelium grow. We started with a farm out of Ontario but were able to connect with a company in Nova Scotia that was much closer to us. If a class were to copy this project, I would suggest reaching out to local companies, as they are very helpful and passionate about growing mushrooms. Because of the complexity of growing your own spawn, I would suggest this be for older grades. Our steps next year will be to provide blocks to elementary schools so they can follow the growth cycle of a mushroom.