Mushrooms in Permaculture Systems

Classes take a look at the bigger, integrated picture

Brook's Bend Farm, MA (April 21)
Three Sisters Farm, PA (May 12)
Rochester Permaculture Center (May 13)

The basis of inspiration for my work as a permaculture forest farmer comes from what I observe and learn in natural ecosystems, and at the heart of what I've learned over the last 10 years is that a) no organism survives or thrives without maintaining a cooperative connection to other species and b) sustainable systems are also multi-kingdom, that is, not just plants but a mixture of players from the plant, animal, fungi, bacteria, etc communities.

One of the more inspiring examples of these ideas came across my radar several years ago in the writing of Chris Maser, who describes the intricate evolution of a complex relationship between the Spotted Owl, Northern Flyer Squirrel, the Douglas Fir, and truffle mushrooms:

"...Keeping the above in mind, let's consider the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest in which Douglas-fir and western hemlock predominate in the old-growth canopy. Herein lives the Northern Spotted Owl, which preys on the flying squirrel as a staple of its diet. The flying squirrel, in turn, depends on truffles, which it detects by odor at night and then digs them out of the forest soil.

When flying squirrels eat the truffles, they consume fungal tissue that contains nutrients, water, viable fungal spores, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and yeast. Pieces of truffle move to the stomach, where the tissue is digested; then on through the small intestine, where absorption takes place, and then to the cecum.

The cecum is like an eddy along a swift stream; it concentrates, mixes, and retains fungal spores, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and yeast. Undigested material, including cecal contents, is formed into excretory pellets in the lower colon; these pellets, which are expelled through the rectum, contain the viable spores and accompanying micro-organisms necessary to inoculate the root tips of trees."
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.chrismaser.com/truffle.htm

Permaculture is a design system that focuses on the production of food, fibre, and energy while restoring degraded ecosystems. While designs are often focused around plants, it is essential to include animals, fungi, bacteria, and algae as members of five distinct kingdoms, which all have a unique role to play in a healthy ecosystem.

Mushrooms are but one part in this whole systems approach to gardening, farming, and forestry. Our efforts as gardeners, farmers, and land stewards must all be based in the cultivation of healthy soils, which fungi have a unique role in; they are the only organisms that can digest the tough and fibrous lignin in wood, which then makes the material available for other organisms, whether they be bacteria or animal-based.

Three upcoming mushroom classes will be held at  a wide array of permaculture demonstration sites and highlight how mushrooms can integrate into the "big picture." with discussions and content including:

Mycology 101: The basics
Permaculture Principles Applied: Mushrooms as Waste = Food
Mushrooms & Forest Health
Integrated Systems: Shiitake/Duck, Stropharia Polyculture
Stropharia inoculation on woodchips
Oyster inoculation on paper
Shiitake inoculation on log bolts
Lions Mane inoculation on log totems

We'll also look at the specific context of the site (farm vs market garden/bioshelther vs. backyard) and discuss how mushrooms can be integrated to contribute to overall system health. More about these amazing, evolving demonstration sites in MA, PA, and NY:

Brook's Bend Farm
Montague, MA: April 21 from 10:00am - 4:00pm
$80 includes one inoculated log & paper substrate

Brook's Bend is a 90 acre working farm where multiple enterprises share stewardship of the land's resources.   While the farm produces lamb, woolens and forestry products such as cultivated mushrooms and milled lumber, Clearpath Herbals (www.clearpathherbals.com) trains apprentices in cultivating and preparing medicinal herbs in field and forest gardens, Wolf Tree Programs (www.wolftreema.com) runs mentoring programs for children and youth sharing wilderness skills and nature awareness, and a Whole Systems Education and Training Center is establishing plantings and system designs based on permaculture design principles. In 2012, we anticipate the formation of a 501c3 to help us steward the resources of land and community for many more years to come.

Three Sisters Farm
Sandy Lake, PA: May 12
10:00am - 4:00pm
$75 includes one inoculated log & paper substrate

Three Sisters Farm is a five-acre permaculture farm in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. For more than 20 years, the farm has provided produce for markets throughout Western PA, including Pittsburgh. At the heart of the farm’s operations is the bioshelter. This unique structure is part greenhouse, part chicken coop, part hot tub and all permaculture. This bioshelter is a far cry from the plastic-film covered hoop houses heated with coal, oil or gas. With careful design and attention to the operation of the system, the bioshelter stays productive through the coldest of months. The farm offers regular educational opportunities and tours to the public.

Rochester Permaculture Center
Rochester, NY: May 13 from 10:00am - 4:00pm
Sliding Scale $60 -$100 includes one inoculated log & paper substrate

A program of Seeking Common Ground, Inc., RPC is dedicated to exploring, modeling, and inspiring more conscious, sustainable, and restorative ways of life through the application of permaculture and other regenerative design techniques and principles.  Located in a unique setting, RPC is blessed to have Red Creek flowing across the land, giving us many edges - urban/suburban and creek/forest/neighborhood edge.  The overall site is just under an acre, including the homestead.  As RPC is still in its infancy, at just over one year old, the systems are still young and more are being woven in during 2012, providing a good opportunity to see the beginning stages of a permaculture site.

To register for any of these classes, e-mail your name, phone #, and email address to steve@agroforestrysolutions.com. Please note if you prefer payment via credit card or check.