COLUMBIA — Mid-Missouri food lovers could be adding a new crop to their gardens this year.

The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture hosted a mushroom cultivation workshop Sunday that demonstrated how farmers and hobbyists can take on fungi.

Gregory Ormsby Mori, education and outreach coordinator for the MU Center for Agroforestryled the lecture and said he hoped to instill growers with a sense of confidence.

Mori said his goal was to demystify the mushroom and show local residents how easy the species is to grow and the basic techniques involved.

The workshop is one of several the Center for Agroforestry has hosted throughout Columbia to serve the increasing popularity of mushroom cultivation.

"We are really looking to research and promote different practices that can lead to opportunities for Missouri farmers and landowners," Mori said. 

Attendees hands-on experience with three different techniques for cultivating mushrooms—a totem, log and straw bed.

The totem technique is used to cultivate oyster mushrooms. By stacking logs on top of one another with a layer of sawdust spawn in between, the totem creates the ideal environment for oyster mushrooms to grow.

To grow shiitake mushrooms, gardeners were advised to create holes in logs of oak or sugar maple. The technique then involves putting the mushroom spawn into the holes and sealing them with wax.

The lesser known wine cap mushroom can be grown by simply sprinkling sawdust spawn into straw or wood chips. All three types of mushrooms were chosen for their easy identification and growth.

While many of those who attended Sunday's event were interested in growing mushrooms as a hobby, Mori said growing the species has multiple benefits for both the land and farmers.

"When it comes to mushroom growing in a forest farming setting, it can be an opportunity for landowners and small farmers to have additional income, as well as an enjoyable activity for the hobbyist as well," Mori said.

For the past decade, the center has researched mushrooms and set up demonstrations at sites. Mori said the center also plans on experimenting with more uncommon species of mushrooms.

"If you look out there, you see increasing and increasing popularity and recognition that fungi do have a lot of potential to help us in many ways, not just in food, in medicines, but in environmental dimensions in terms of their roles in a lot of ecological processes," Mori said. "So I think you are going to be hearing more about mushrooms."

Supervising editors are Madi Alexander and Katy Mersmann.

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