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Mushroom farming

Here's how a mushroom farm makes it all work

The fresh mushrooms you bought from the grocery store likely came from Pennsylvania. Sixty-four percent of the nation’s mushrooms are commercially grown in that state.

Gale Ferranto is a 3rd generation mushroom farmer, on the board of the Mushroom Council, and the president of Buona foods in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. She says you can grow one-million pounds of mushrooms on less than an acre of land. They grow theirs vertically in windowless buildings.

"The mushroom beds are stacked one on top of one another and there’s maybe 4' difference between the bottom bed and the next bed. And they usually are 7-8 beds high," she says. "The size of the room can be anywhere from 6,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet."

The mushroom houses are climate-controlled with the perfect temperature and humidity levels for each variety. Some species such as oyster are grown in bags and hang from the ceiling.  Shitake and maitakes grow in substrate that mimic their natural environment.

Ferranto says they harvest over three-million pounds of mushrooms per-year. When you farm fungi on this scale, you’re harvesting by hand every single day.

"Some farms will harvest two different shifts because mushrooms grow so fast. We harvest in one shift and we stagger our crops so that we have mushrooms for the next day," she says. "That’s part of the education and the training for the harvester, to train them to not mow a bed down, to selectively pick so that tomorrow you have mushrooms as well. That’s really important to our flow and to the healthiness of the crop."

Ferranto says they usually get three flushes from a mushroom bed before they start over with new growing material and spawn. This is purchased from companies that specialize in those processes.

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