The north Willamette Valley has experienced a notable increase in the number of farmers expressing interest in small-scale mushroom production. These farmers are seeking avenues for farmer-to-farmer support, skill-sharing and collaborative marketing to assist them in navigating the intricacies of mushroom cultivation. A specific challenge highlighted by farmers involves finding markets for their mushrooms in the Portland area.
In response, Em Jones, a 2022 summer intern in the Oregon State University Extension Service Internship Program, created a network of small-scale mushroom growers. Guided by Heidi Noordijk, OSU Extension Metro Small Farms Coordinator, Jones conducted a comprehensive search of mushroom producers in the Portland metro area by looking at social media, contacting farmers markets, and by word-of-mouth. Jones, then a student at OSU, developed a survey that was distributed to mushroom producers to gauge interest and understand potential avenues of support.
Since its inception, the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Producers Network has conducted 10 meetings via Zoom featuring guest speakers or in conjunction with farm tours. The meeting topics ranged from collaborative grants to initiating cooperatives and effective marketing strategies. The meetings underscore the network's commitment to fostering a supportive environment for mushroom producers and addressing the practical challenges they face in the market landscape.
As a result, the network has emerged as an important platform that provides a collaborative space for new mushroom producers to exchange ideas and resources. With a membership of 62 individuals on the mailing list as of late 2023, the network has facilitated meaningful connections and knowledge-sharing among its members.
An example of the network's impact is reflected in the success of the workshop “Mushroom Cultivation: Beginner Basics,” held at Small Farm School at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City in both 2022 and 2023. These sessions provided 60 participants with fundamental insights into mushroom cultivation.
"The network has been instrumental in my journey as a mushroom farmer," said one Portland mushroom farmer. “When I first entered this industry, I had no contacts, no mentors, and limited resources. The network provided everything I needed to jumpstart my business.”
Another mushroom farmer in Portland said, “It's been great to share strains and resources with other mushroom growers. I've expanded my library and opportunity to grow more mushroom species. It feels good to be in community with so many other mushroom enthusiasts.”