Mushroom Workshop

The cultivation center of a model mushroom farmer. Reading this week:

  • Star.Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits by Gordon White
  • Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

This week I attended the mushroom workshop. This took place in Lusaka and is another thing I’m pretty excited about implementing in the village. Although the workshop itself was a Peace Corps event, the training was conducted by China Aid, the PRC’s international development agency. This marks a new stage in my historically tumultuous relationship with the PRC. But anyways. They have a big research center on the outskirts of Lusaka, and from the looks of it focus on agricultural techniques (and the growing of Chinese vegetables, from the looks of their garden; I spent some time thinking about stereotypical things to focus on, development-wise *cough* JICA and rice *cough,* but that’s probably a topic best left to scholars or whatever). One of their big specialties is mushroom growing, and that’s of course why we were there. Mushrooms can be a pretty excellent crop for a farmer. They grow on agricultural waste products, like corn cobs or elephant grass, are easy to grow, are rich in vitamins and stuff, and sell pretty well. China Aid will sell, at a low price, bags of cultivated mushroom mycelium. All the farmer does with these is cut a few holes and wait for mushrooms to grow. This isn’t really very sustainable, because the farmer would have to keep buying these cultivated mycelium all the way from Lusaka (and transport them to their farm, like I did; they’re basically bags of mold and it was a little weird to carry around). So the workshop focused on mushroom spawning. My biggest criticism of the workshop is that it wasn’t very village-based. They did talk about the technologies you would use in the village, but it was mostly along the lines of “…and if you don’t happen to have an autoclave, you can use an old oil drum!” However, with work, it does seem very possible in the village to grow mushrooms all the way from scratch, eliminating the need to buy cultivated products from China. I am excited to give it a whirl. Maybe once I am back in the States I can use my skills to sell like artisan mushrooms and the local farmer’s market. Hand crafted! On a final note, the other awesome part of the China Aid research complex is a sweet basketball court. We had driven by the place many times but never seen anyone play, until now. Between sessions there was a pickup game or two, which for any passerbys must have been kinda confusing. But there we go.