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Expanding the Mushroom Operation

Since December, Stefan has been using the heated high tunnel to grow One Acre Farm's mushrooms in. He cornered off a section of one of the high tunnels and hung large sheets of greenhouse plastic to create an insulated room in which he could set up a humidifier and keep the mushrooms warm. But large spaces are hard to heat… and as those who have paid any sort of gas bill lately know, it’s expensive.

So, the operation needed a new plan. Farmer Mike, Stefan, and Charlotte talked it over, debating what the smartest move would be. Many iterations of a new mushroom operation were proposed with the final idea being the ticket. Charlotte asked, “Hey Mike, isn’t that guy down the road selling a small ‘Caterpillar’ style high tunnel? Why don’t we use that?”

Many of the decisions made on the farm are talked over extensively, weighing all options, determining an appropriate budget, and thinking about the long-term and short-term outcomes. For us farmers, a guiding principle has been, “Get it right the first time.” That means, no skirting around the situation, settling on a half-baked idea that may work in the short-term, but not significantly into the future. It’s hard though, to stay on track, and many times we need each other to keep us focused.

It's one of the reasons this community of farmers and farm supporters is so important. We keep each other focused on the goal: to do better for ourselves and for our earth.

Which brings us back to the mushrooms.

The decision was made to travel down the road and purchase the gently used small high tunnel.

But that was only the beginning. We had to make space for the high tunnel and set it up in a way that was efficient, easy to use, and mindful of any future expansion. The best place was a grove of unhealthy pine trees left over from the time when the property was a nursery. The trees’ roots were encased in metal rings, and several had already fallen over, unable to establish a strong root system. It was time to remove the sick trees and use the land for the mushroom operation.

You should’ve seen Farmer Mike out there on the big old red tractor, going back and forth moving debris into a pile. It took two whole days to clear the plot.

After organizing all the brush and branches and trunks into a pile, we rented a wood-chipper and chipped the food into a neat pile. And check this out – the wood chips are being used by the Compost Crew as a valuable component of their composting operation.

It took a week to clear the plot and many sore muscles but now we’re about ready to build the high tunnel and get the new mushroom operation started. It’s been quite a project, and of course it’s taken more time (and money) than anticipated but it’s going to be worth it in the long run. Those mushrooms you get in your share in a couple weeks’ time will be grown in the permanent new location, a new space added to the farm for the better of the farm and the food it produces, in the long run.

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