This wonderful program makes it possible for American agricultural experts to volunteer in developing countries around the world, teaching farmers new skills and techniques that lead to sustainable agricultural improvements.
Thanks to the Partners of the Americas-administered Farmer to Farmer program, we hosted a two-week-long training session on shiitake and oyster mushroom growing. Nicholas Laskovski of Dana Forest Farms in Waitsfield, Vermont taught a group of local farmers everything they need to know for success at growing this new crop.
Mushrooms are an unusual crop in Jamaica. Most Jamaicans have never eaten a mushroom, and very few farmers here grow the crop for the tourist market. This is unfortunate, as there are important health benefits to eating mushrooms and there is a big market for fresh, locally-grown shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Mushroom growing also makes use of space under trees where not much else will grow, and turns scrap logs to a more productive use than burning it as firewood.
The following pair of videos show some of what we learned and did during the training with Nick.
This, our first attempt to grow mushrooms, failed. Pests devoured the spawn in the inoculation holes in the logs. We wondered if we had bad timing – did the fact that we did the project in March mean that the dry season came too quickly, and there wasn’t enough moisture for the spawn to colonize the logs before pests ate it? Brian, a neighbor who attended the training, urged us not to give up, to try again.
We thought about how to approach this for a second time. Consulting with Nick, who agreed to come again, we decided to do a few logs – we were at a good point in the rainy season and felt that they had a good chance, if moisture was an issue. We also decided to try two more protected methods that involved growing the mushrooms in bags. Some of the bags held sawdust or a guinea grass/sawdust mixture – these were suspended from the roof of a coconut thatch/bamboo mushroom house that we built. Big logs were stacked with spawn between them in the second protected method (the “totem” method) – these logs were tied into garbage bags on the floor of our mushroom house.
When Nick came again, he did a training up in the Blue Mountains with a motivated group of Rastas. He also helped us build our mushroom house and fill it with inoculated bags. Nick is a great teacher, skilled, relaxed and able to easily relate to people.
Nick, proud Daddy of Jamaican mushroom growing, your first baby was born a few days ago! Please view the slide show on this page for a picture of our first mushroom, born from a hole in one of the totem bags in our mushroom house. Much thanks to Brian, who encouraged us not to give up, and endless thanks to Nick, who generously gave of his time once again, believing in the potential of our project.
Partners of the Americas and the Farmer to Farmer program have made to possible for us to accomplish so much, we are tremendously indebted to them. We never take their support for granted, and are full of appreciation.
To learn more about our generous sponsor and volunteer, please use the following links.