This past Friday the students at Aloha Medicinals took a field trip to see Simply Manna, a mushroom farm located just outside of Sacramento. The farm focuses on cultivating a variety of Oyster mushrooms using ingenius small scale automated techniques. The father and son team can pump out 2 tons of mushrooms a month!! The father was an engineer for 30 years and has applied some very creative systems to make the sometimes labor intensive process into pure joy. The process starts by shredding organic rice straw the duo has bought in bulk and stores under massive billboard tarps. The straw is then brought into the room shown on left. First the straw is packed into a large black bag seen on the right and submerged in the tub underneath for about 18 hours in a lime bath. The lime bath is a mixture of water and lime which raises the pH to about 12 causing a drastic decline in the amount of micro organisms present in the straw. This gives an aggressive mushroom species the opportunity to colonize the straw before other competitors. Once the straw is soaked it is lifted out of the tub of water via a winch and allowed to drain. In the center is a mixing bowl with the bottom cut out and a long plastic tube hanging underneath which is what they grow the mushrooms out of. Handful by handful the straw is dropped into the tube and spawn is sprinkled on top. While filling this tube, about 6 ft tall, an air compressor with a pole attached is used to pack the straw log tight. Oysters evolved growing through wood and therefor do well when their growing medium is packed tight. Using this handmade dolly the log weighing around 80 Lbs is moved to the incubation room and hung from the ceiling. Once in this room holes are stabbed into the bag to allow air exchange and a place for mushrooms to fruit out of. The floor is cement and very open so mopping, spraying, and cleaning the room can be done frequently. Once fully colonized bags are moved into the fruiting room. The conditions in the fruiting room are controlled by an intake fan which comes on every 15-20 minutes depending on how many bags are in the room. Mushrooms, like people take in oxygen and exhale CO2. If the air is not exchanged frequently enough CO2 levels become too high and malformations of the fruiting bodies occur. Once the air is exchanged a simple misting system comes on to maintain a high humidity in the room without directly wetting the mushrooms. After about a 6 week cropping period the bags are moved out of the fruiting room. Simply Mana sells to local farmers market and are beginning to expand into grocery stores and other full year venues. Thank you for all the great ideas you have shared with the students at Aloha and may the mushrooms continue to fruit abundantly! To learn more about this mushroom farm click here!