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Farm Scale Mushroom Cultivation (BF 150)

Growing Shiitake and Other Mushrooms for Fun and Profit

Mushrooms are an emerging niche crop with many benefits, including improving farmer stewardship of forested lands, utilization of old buildings and barn space, and the ability to offer a unique and highly desired product. With a bit of practice, mushrooms can be easily grown almost anywhere (woods, old buildings, gardens) and on many different materials (logs, wood chips, straw, shredded paper)

This course trains new and experienced farmers in the background, techniques, and economics of farm scale commercial mushroom production. Students will learn the basic biology of mushrooms, cultivation techniques for shiitake, oyster, lions mane, and stropharia mushrooms, proper conditions for fruiting, management needs, and harvesting and marketing mushrooms.

Note: In addition to weekly online readings, presentation, and discussion, participants will receive spawn in the mail and get to try mini mushroom experiments on their tabletop at home.

Target Audience

The course is for new farmers, or experienced farmers seeking to diversify their operations. It’s also relevant to woodlot owners and backyard gardeners interested in this topic. Growing mushrooms as a viable economic enterprise will be stressed, though techniques can also be applied at the hobby scale. Mushroom farming is an easy topic for beginners with some experience farming and managing crop systems. Those with knowledge of forestry and chainsaw use may be able to move along more quickly.

Course Objectives

At the completion of this course, you will:

  • Understand of the basics of mushroom production, harvesting, and marketing
  • Be able to complete a basic marking plan and budget for a mushroom enterprise
  • Understand the logistics of management, sales, and legal issues related to mushroom farming


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters and ask questions to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing. Access details will be posted in MOODLE once you have registered and logged in.


Tues. Sept 29 – Nov 3, 2015. Webinars will be on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8pm Eastern time, and will be recorded for later viewing. – FULL

Tues Feb 23 – March 29, 2016. Webinars will be on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8pm Eastern time, and will be recorded for later viewing. – FULL


Steve Gabriel, Agroforestry Specialist for Cornell Small Farms Program, co-owner of Wellspring Forest Farm, and co-author of Farming the Woods.

Course Outline

Week 1: Introduction & Mycology 101
Topics: Navigating moodle, course overview, mushroom biology, cultivation vs wildcrafting, meet the mushrooms

Week 2: Woodlot Mushroom Production
Topics: Finding logs, woodchips, and other substrates, inoculation procedures, mushroom farming and forest health

Week 3: Growing Oysters on straw and other substrates
Topics: indoor cultivation of oysters, environmental needs and management, pests

Week 4: Forcing, fruiting, harvest, storage
Topics: Management, pests, how to force fruiting of mushrooms, when to harvest, storage and drying mushrooms

Week 5: Selling and marketing mushrooms
Topics: Wholesale vs retail sales, CSAs, restaurants, packaging and delivery, value added products, labeling and legal considerations

Week 6: Beyond just food: other mushroom applications
Topics: home propagation, health and medicinal benefits, mycoremediation


Course fee is $200, plus $30 for a table-top mushroom spawn kit that will be sent directly to you for the hands-on portion of the course, so $230 total.

Registration is currently closed and will re-open in mid-August 2016.

We are also offering other mushroom courses in-person which can be viewed at the Cornell Mushroom Event Page.