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Shiitake Mushrooms: A Commercial Forest Farming Enterprise

Posted by Kate MacFarland, USDA National Agroforestry Center, U.S. Forest Service in Forestry
Feb 21, 2017
Workshop participants examining forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms
Workshop participants examine forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms. (Photo credit: Ken Mudge / Cornell University and Allen Matthews / Chatham University)

Helping landowners care for their forests and strengthen local economies is an important goal of the U.S. Forest Service, USDA National Agroforestry Center and their partnering organizations.

According to Ken Mudge of Cornell University, any farmer with a woodlot and the drive to diversify should consider forest-cultivated shiitake mushrooms. They are well suited to the increasing demand for locally produced, healthy foods.

With a retail price of $12 to $20 per pound, the demand for shiitakes is considerable throughout the Northeast. As an added benefit, growing mushrooms encourages landowners to learn more about managing their forests.

Using freshly cut logs of oak, beech, sugar maple, hornbeam or musclewood, Mudge says that a landowner with a solid production plan can grow one-half to one pound of mushrooms per log in two to three harvests each year for three to four years. Thus, he believes that forest cultivation of mushrooms not only produces delicious food, but is also one of the most reliably profitable non-timber forest products grown in a forest farming system.

Working with a number of partners, Mudge first held a shiitake inoculation workshop in 2009. Although it was unusually cold and icy, 40 people attended. Encouraged by this interest, Mudge and others applied for and received funding from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to teach interested landowners how to start commercial-scale shiitake mushroom farming.

Unlike one-off workshops, this effort included hands-on training over two years in both the mechanics of growing shiitake mushrooms and how to start a shiitake farming enterprise. A total of 400 participants from eight states participated in the first year.

Since these initial workshops, a number of additional efforts have come about. Several farmer advisors from this project have gone on to successfully acquire SARE farmer grants to research key questions they confronted in their own shiitake operations. Mudge’s group also obtained USDA funds to diversify forest mushroom production by developing production methods and running on-farm trials of three other types of gourmet mushrooms: Lion’s Mane, Wine Cap and Maitake.

With funding from USDA, these creative scientists and farmers are providing strategic research and outreach to catalyze a forest-grown mushroom industry. The Cornell-lead project is currently working to educate farmers on methods of mushroom cultivation through the Cornell Small Farms Program.

Workshop participants inoculating logs for forest grown shiitake mushroom production
Workshop participants inoculate logs for forest grown shiitake mushroom production. (Photo credit: Ken Mudge / Cornell University and Allen Matthews / Chatham University)
Category/Topic: Forestry

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Christine Mellon
Jan 21, 2016

How do I find out more on how to start this kinda of farming? I have a wooded lot and would love to start asap.

Christine Mellon

Jan 21, 2016

Can these be grown in a South Eastern wooded area, hardwoods, or pines?

Mark Ringenberg
Jan 22, 2016

I am organizing an Earth day Arbor day program for April 25, 2016. Any way we can have a demo of this for our program.

Gordon Garrison
Jan 22, 2016

We have done this in the thinning process of oak savanna restoration here in Iowa

Dennis Muller
Jan 22, 2016

This has been on my list of trials for a couple of years now. I work for a larger timber company and would like to put this to work in some of our leave tree areas.

Thank you,


Jan 25, 2016

Will shiitakes (or Lion's Mane, Wine Cap and Maitake for that matter) grow in Florida forests? How far south?

Jan 27, 2016

How does one get started? I have 600 acres of hardwood forest in the Mississippi delta, and seem to grow mushrooms pretty easy.

Eve Taylor
Jan 27, 2016

I have just purchased property in south Alabama with pulp wood pine I know most mushrooms require hardwood. If I studded the land with hardwood used for fire wood could I enoculate them and leave them in the forest to grow. We have a lot of natural mushrooms (not safe to eat growing on our grass land)Where can I find the inoculate?

Jan 27, 2016

I would be interested in what mushrooms are most suitable/profitable for coastal California.

Ben Weaver
Feb 04, 2016

@Randy - Log-grown mushrooms are grown on hardwood logs, but are often grown under conifers, which provide year-round shade.

Ben Weaver
Feb 04, 2016

@Eve Taylor - several companies sell inoculate for specific edible mushroom varieties, suitable for growing on logs.

Steven DeRaedt
Jun 27, 2016

I live in MI and have a tree farm in Mid-MI and am currently udertaking a harvest of beech, maple and oak and would have a lot of stock to begin to cultivate mushrooms. how can the inoculate be purchased?

David Thomas
Nov 25, 2017

I live in Hawaii and I am interested in growing shiitake and exotic mushrooms. Is the climate suitable for this type of mushroom and is there a market for them?

Ben Weaver
Nov 27, 2017

@David Thomas - Hello, the climate in Hawaii is suitable for growing Shitake and many exotic varieties of mushrooms. Learn more about forest farming here (click on the many mushroom links): Please contact the State of Hawaii Agricultural Development Division Market Development Branch for information about local markets:

Raymonde parolo
Jan 31, 2018

Very interested. Please send literature.

Samuel Olugbade
Jul 05, 2018

We shall like to be associated with you in area of shiitake cultivation and shiitake spawn production respectively. Kindly relate with us to enable have meaningful discussion in this area of shiitake has we area plan to set of complete shiitake farm unit in our country through your company guide, direction, instruction, help and assistance. Awaiting your immediate and positive reply sir.
Thanks sir.

Maggie Butler
May 06, 2019

I really enjoy reading this article. We are very interested to learn more about how to grow Shiitake mushroom and would like to seek guidance and assistance from your USDA if it is possible. I would appreciate it very much if you can direct us who to contact.

Thank you very much in advance,

Maggie Butler

Maggie Butler
May 06, 2019

We are very interested to learn more about how to start to grow Shiitake mushroom on logs. We own some woodland in Maine. Would you please direct us who to contact to get guidance and assistance?

Thank you very much in advance,

Maggie Butler

James Kung
Oct 09, 2019

Nice post!!