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Growing Shiitake mushrooms in your backyard

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It was a day of drilling holes and planting seeds at the Mercer County 4-H Camp. Residents across the community showed up to a public workshop, to learn how to grow Shiitake Mushrooms. 

"This is an educational program to teach people more about growing mushrooms and their benefits," said Jodi Richmond, WVU Extension Agent for Mercer County and Master Gardner Coordinator. 

The workshop was led by Permaculturalist and Master Gardner Justyn J. Marchese, who works with the Mavis Institute. He led the participants through hands-on training, teaching them how to prepare logs that will grow Shiitake mushrooms

"This workshop was a basic background of what to do," Justyn said. "The first thing we did was drill a hole and look for a spot in the wood for the best place to drill a hole for the mushrooms. Then we filled the mushroom with the plug, which has the beginning mushroom seed in it. Then we waxed over the hole to give that mushroom extra protection. After that, it's just a waiting period."

Justyn's focus was on ensuring everyone in the group felt comfortable with understanding how to grow the mushrooms on their own.

"They got to try it one time with me standing right here, so if they got nervous about something, I was there to answer questions. Also, to ensure they had the confidence they can do it themselves."

The market for Shiitake Mushrooms is in demand and more farmers are encouraged to grow them. This workshop is one step towards helping local residents earn a financial harvest by means of growing the mushrooms in their backyards. The major expenses involved are the wood itself and the shiitake plugs. When done properly, mushroom growers can expect several harvests. 

"You can take those yields and sell it to local Farmers' Markets," Marchese said. "You can find local restaurants that are specializing in certain types of dishes."

Marcheta Albert is a hospice nurse that enjoys attending the farming workshops. She wants to add growing Shiitake Mushrooms to her farming repertoire, to see if it will bring the county more commercial growth. 

"I hope we can provide healthy food for our local people without a big price tag," Albert said. 

Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their added health benefits, which include producing Vitamin D. 

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