Oyster mushrooms grown in house

LIME SPRINGS  - Homesteader Lezlie Ceran grows mushrooms in her house. She is, in fact, the only indoor organic mushroom grower in the state of Iowa. 
Under the banner of One World Micro Echo Farm, Ceran grows oyster mushrooms in 36 growing buckets stacked four high under a humidity tent in her front room. She sells them every week at the Cresco Open Air Market, along with her fruit, jams and homemade soap.
“Having fresh, exotic mushrooms is a powerful way to be accepted into a very competitive farmers market,” Ceran said. “I just saw the potential, having this as a product makes me stand out.”
So how does one go about growing mushrooms in the front room? The process is a complicated mixture of science and art, and for Ceran, it started with a couple of simple mushroom kits she purchased online. 
The first kit she tried failed because it was too dry in the house, so she set the second one aside to pursue other projects. Then, in March, she decided to give the second kit a try. 
This time, however, she consulted some books and YouTube videos first. “Most of them are junk,” Ceran announced unceremoniously. But she found a couple of gems that gave her ideas well beyond the reach of a simple mushroom kit.
The first step in growing mushrooms, it turns out, is selecting a substrate in which your mushrooms will grow. There are many options, from sawdust to cardboard, but after a process of trial and error, Ceran settled on ground, pelleted corn cobs produced commercially as horse bedding.
The substrate must be wet, but not too wet, so Ceran adds just enough water so if she squeezes a handful, just a few drops will come out. “All the moisture that’s in the corncobs at the beginning, that’s all the water the mushrooms will ever have,” Ceran explained. “All of the fruit has to come out of the water that’s in this bedding.”
Where to place this substrate is the next hurdle, and storage tubs seemed an obvious solution. As it turns out, however, they weren’t a solution so much as a whole new set of problems. For one, the tubs took up way too much room in her house. For another, once full of substrate, they were too heavy to move. And perhaps most importantly, the mushrooms didn’t want to fruit in them.
So back to the drawing board it was. 
Ceran set her head to the problem and started perusing her books for answers and inspiration. In the course of her research, she ran across a photo of someone using stacked, five-gallon nursery pots with holes drilled in the sides. A good solution, she thought, but she didn’t have a source for nursery pots. 
And that’s when the idea of buckets struck her. 
At three gallons each, buckets will hold 10 pounds of substrate. When properly hydrated, that makes each bucket approximately 30 pounds – a manageable weight to move around. Moreover, she can stack the buckets four high to conserve on space and can purchase food-grade buckets locally for a low price.
The food grade part is important to her plan. “Mushrooms absorb chemicals really easily,” Ceran said. “There is a lot of use for them in what is called remediation for pollution. They can clean up atrazine and benzine and all kinds of stuff. They soak it up like a sponge. So I don’t want them growing on plastic that isn’t safe.”
And not only are the buckets safe, they’re also easy to drill. Ceran drilled 10, three-quarter-inch holes into the sides of each bucket and the mushrooms loved it. 
“Buckets simulate them [the mushrooms] growing on tree trunks,” Ceran explained. 

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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