Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Duck Publication Released!

In 2011, Northeast SARE awarded us a farmer research grant to study the potential of integrating ducks into our shiitake mushroom enterprise. For two seasons we raised several flocks of ducks of many breeds and took observations and data to try and answer the following questions: 

1. Are ducks effective and reliable slug control in log-grown mushroom cultivation?
2. Is the forest affected in any negative way from the presence of ducks?
3. Are ducks (raised for meat) economically viable as an additional farm income stream?

Well, two years later we've completed the project and the results are in! Here are some of our key findings: 
1) Ducks can provide a good level of pest control throughout the farm (including forests, fields, and gardens) and if rotated, do not appear to have adverse effects on the farm landscape.

2) Only one of the four breeds of duck we raised (Muscovy) gains sufficient weight to make a profit. A duck would need to get to at least 8 lbs in a season to make it economical under our model. 150 - 400 ducks would need to be raised per season to be economically viable.

3) Integrating ducks into the mushroom yard did appear to have a positive effect on reducing slug populations and thus mushroom damage, though the mix of variables (weather, temperatures, labor, etc) made it difficult to collect good data on the dynamics at play.
In addition, part of our goal with the project was to author a publication that covered some of the basic tips and tricks for raising ducks, as we found that books and articles just didn't cover all the bases. We hope that our efforts will help farmers and homesteaders consider raising ducks for hobby or profit, valuing their ecosystem services as much as their products. Ducks have a phenomenal potential to be beneficial members of the farm ecosystem.

Ultimately, we are very happy working with ducks and while we decided that, at least for now, we won't be raising ducks for meat at a commercial scale, we continue to maintain a flock of roughly 20 ducks and are selling duck eggs locally.

Read all the details and learn key information about raising ducks in our FREE PDF publication:

Complete Grant Documents can be accessed at:

Drawing by Carl Whittaker
Our Sincere Thanks to:
NE-SARE for funding and support
Roger Ort and Ken Mudge for providing technical expertise
Joshua Pezet for his help caretaking, collecting data, and especially all the wrangling and weighing of ducks in 2012!
Jennifer Gabriel for her wonderful photos.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shares of forest-grown shiitake now available for 2014

We will be at the Tompkins County CSA Fair this coming Saturday selling shares and inoculated mushroom logs. Sign up at the fair and receive a FREE package of dried shiitake to enjoy right away!

From the time we first saw shiitake mushrooms pop from our hardwood logs and tasted the difference over the ones we'd had from the store, we were hooked. It is our pleasure to offer customers in Schuyler and Tompkins county fresh, log-grown shiitake mushrooms harvested from our maple woods this year.

Log-grown shiitake are far superior to mushrooms from the store, which are almost always grown indoors in a climate controlled environment. In addition to a smaller ecological footprint, mushrooms from the forest have a better appearance, taste, and texture and as research has indicated, are often higher in both their nutritional and medicinal qualities.

Shiitake mushrooms offer the following benefits:
- a great source of protein with zero saturated fats (great for vegetarians) Resource
- shown to significantly lower cholesterol levels Resource
- contains anti-cancer properties Resource
- supports immune system Resource
- contains high levels of vitamins B2, B5, B6 and D, as well as manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper and over 30 different enzymes Resource

Our experience growing shiitakes for the past six years means you get the best of the best. Steve has been an advocate for forest farming and outdoor mushroom cultivation for many years, teaching hundreds of backyard and farmer growers the process of cultivation through his work as an extension educator and coordinator of the Northeast Forest Mushroom Growers Network.

Join our 2014 CSA share and receive a half pound (or more!) of fresh, log-grown shiitake mushrooms each week. Don't think you will eat a half pound every week? Shiitake mushrooms are easy to dry for winter storage. (we'll tell you how).

Your share includes:

- Half pound of fresh shiitake mushrooms (about one quart containers worth) each week
- Weekly recipe and update from the farm
- Discounts on workshops & other products we sell
- A few mushroom-related surprises along the way!

The share runs from the second week in June through the second week in September, for a total of 14 weeks. Pick-up locations include Thursdays on the patio at the Westy bar (alongside Plowbreak Farm CSA pick-up) or on-farm in Mecklenburg on Fridays. If you can get together 5+ orders with neighbors and friends we will offer free delivery weekly to a location in Ithaca or Trumansburg.

Cost: $112 for 1/2 pound per week for 14 weeks ($8/week)
        (Double shares (1 lb/week) get a 10% discount)

Pre-inoculated logs

The farm also has pre-inoculated logs for sale if you prefer to grow-your-own. Logs come ready to go, you just set them up in a cool, shady spot. Full instructions included.

Shiitake logs can be fruited on a reliable schedule with soaking 24 hours in cold water. Each flush produces 1/4 - 1/2 pound of mushrooms or more. All wood was harvested sustainably from local forests, where cutting was done to improve forest health. NOTE: Because of state firewood hauling restrictions logs cannot be sold beyond 50 miles of Mecklenburg, NY.

Shiitake (Logs are 4 - 8" in diameter and 36" long)
    - 2012 (will fruit this year): $20 each, 5 for $80
    - 2013 (will fruit next year: $15 each, 5 for $60

TO ORDER LOGS and SIGN UP FOR THE CSA visit our website and click on "mushrooms"