How many mushroom logs do I need?


Enthusiastic new growers that attend mushroom inoculation classes often want to know how many logs they should be inoculating to get a reasonable yield. Their response is often met with the response familiar to many gardeners and farmers, "it depends." The trick is matching the quantity of logs with the goals for yield and the willingness to  invest time in proper management.

Before we look at the various scales of log-grown shiitake production and some ballpark estimates, its important to know a few basics about mushroom production.

First, logs are inoculated and fruiting can be expected the FOLLOWING season (i.e. if I inoculate logs this May, then the will begin fruiting NEXT May)

Second, if you want decent flushes of mushrooms you'll want to soak your logs by submerging them in cold water for 24 hours.

Third, after soaking a log, the mushrooms will flush 1/4 - 1/2 a pound per log, on average. Sometimes more.

And finally, logs need a rest period of 8 weeks after soaking.

In addition to knowing the process, its key to match your system to your goals. How much time do you want to spend harvesting, inoculating, and managing your logs? If you aren't trained in chainsaw safety, where will logs be acquired from? Are you able to check your logs daily, to harvest mushrooms at peak maturity?

Thus, the answer(s) to the question, "How many logs do I need...." can be answered in many ways:

Backyard system: 30 logs + an old bathtub
....to cook in one meal a week? = 8 logs

This means you soak one log each week and get 1/4 - 1/2 pounds with each flush. That's enough for a decent meal (or two). You could easily stash this number of logs under a porch or a single tree and soak in a trash can or even an old bathtub.

....to feed family & friends? = 32 logs

Soaking 4 logs a week should yield between 1 and 2 pounds per week, which is plenty for eating and dehydrating some for the off-season or to give as gifts. An old kiddie pool would suffice for soaking.

....to make a little side income? = 160 logs

If you soaked 20 logs a week, you could gross between $60 and $160/week. That's a yield of 5 - 10 pounds that you sell for $12/lb wholesale or $16/lb retail. We aren't talking about a huge investment of time here; a well managed system could be maintained in 5 hours or less per week.

....to make it a career? = 10,000 logs

Now we are getting serious! Soaking 1,250 logs a week would yield 300 - 600 lbs of mushrooms, which for $10/lb would gross $60,000 - $120,000 over a 20 week period, June through October. Expenses are considerable - at this scale mechanization and hired hands would be necessary. It's possible to make 40 - 60% of this gross as profit.

Understory Mushrooms is aiming to make its operation one part of a larger farm ecosystem, with our production likely to peak around 3,000 logs. Soaking 375 logs a week is probably about the maximum we can handle with human power.

Our farming plans for the future include other forest grown wood products, mixed rotational grazing of animals, and ongoing education on forest-based agriculture systems.

Learn more details of mushroom inoculation, not only for shiitake but also stropharia, oyster, and lions mane at one of several mushroom inoculation classes offered this spring and summer in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

More information on the classes below can be accessed at www.agroforestrysolutions.com

CCE Steuben County, Bath, NY: March 24
SUNY Ulster County, Kingston, NY: April 28
CCE Hamilton County, Piseco, NY: May 19

Brook's Bend Farm, Montague, MA: April 21
Three Sisters Farm, Sandy Lake, PA: May 12
Rochester Permaculture Center, Rochester NY: May 13

Anderson Farm, Mecklenburg, NY: May 5th & 6th

Little Farm of Paradise, Hampton NY: May 20
Shannon Brook Farm, Watkins Glen, NY: June 10

Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT: June 2
Twin Pond Retreat, Brookfield, VT: June 3