The Cornell Small Farms Program recently partnered with Farm School NYC, GrowNYC and Just Food to offer a community mushroom educator training aimed at building a cohort of mushroom educators from urban and rural centers throughout the Northeast.
Participants learned how to grow and sell specialty mushrooms, and how to teach these skills in the communities they serve.
Among the attendees was Lori Koenick, a 4-H youth development educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County. Through her undergraduate studies in microbiology at West Virginia University and graduate studies in plant pathology at Cornell, Koenick developed a passion for facilitating nature-based programs.
“Mushrooms are beautiful and interesting organisms,” Koenick said. “So little is known about them and they are rarely discussed in school. I hope to make them accessible to both youth and adults. Once people learn about the roles mushrooms play in our everyday lives and how easy they are to grow, I hope there will be a greater appreciation for them.
“I’ve always been fascinated by fungi and mushrooms. They’re an unseen player that play a huge role in our ecosystems. Fungi are responsible for most of the decomposition of organic matter on our planet. This decomposition allows nutrients to be recycled back into ecosystems. In addition, the majority of plants on earth form a partnership with a specific group of fungi to exchange nutrients needed to grow.”
Some types of mushrooms can be cultivated, and have nutritional and medicinal benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, specialty mushrooms include any species beyond the genus Agaricus, which includes button, crimini and portabella mushrooms.
“People tell me all the time they do not like eating mushrooms and I ask them what types of mushrooms they have tried,” Koenick said. “We see that specialty mushrooms are becoming more available at markets. Some of my favorite specialty mushrooms include oyster, shiitake and lion’s mane mushrooms. I find each type of mushroom to have a unique taste and texture, different from the typical Agaricus mushrooms. Beyond taste, these mushrooms can be a great source of protein and contain no cholesterol. They also are low in calories and contain many essential nutrients.”
Koenick is facilitating a virtual workshop in collaboration with Hannah Hedrick, education program manager at Grow Ohio Valley, on how to grow oyster mushrooms at home. Participants will learn about the life cycle of mushrooms, the parts of the fungi that produce edible mushrooms, and ways to grow mushrooms inside and outside the home.
This free workshop for ages 13 and older will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 29 via Zoom. Registration is required. Visit bit.ly/2E2UFGc for information.