Cornell CALS - College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Specialty Mushrooms

Project Lead: Steve Gabriel, Yolanda Gonzalez

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Specialty mushrooms are defined by USDA as any species not belonging to the genus Agaricus (button, crimini, portabella). The most common specialty mushrooms are shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and oyster (Pleuterous ostreatus), which represent the second and third most produced in the United States (USDA, 2017).

The Cornell Small Farms Program, with support from USDA-NIFA and USDA-SARE and alongside partners CCE Harvest NY, Fungi Ally, Farm School NYC, Just Food, and GrowNYC are engaged in a multi-year project to elevate and support diverse mushroom growers in the Northeast region.

We accomplish this by offering training events both in person and online, publishing cultivation and marketing factsheets, videos, and guidebooks, and offering technical support through our active grower email list. View our resources below and get in touch with your questions!

Project Partners

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Our project offers the leading extension resources for specialty mushroom cultivation on small farms in the United States. We are here to help you learn and grow.

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Sales of Specialty Mushrooms are on the rise (Fig. 1). In 2017, production of specialty mushrooms, grew by four percent from 2016 levels to 25.4 million pounds with a sales value of $96.2 million. While this represents a 9.6% increase from the previous year, there is still a high level of demand not being met. In 2017, specialty mushroom growers produced 26.1million pounds — a 5.5% average increase over the last five years. Yet in 2017, there were only 226 growers commercially producing specialty mushrooms the United States (USDA, 2017).

Demand for specialty mushrooms is rapidly rising, as consumers look to purchase more foods that are healthy, nutritious, and medicinal. United States per capita consumption of all mushroom species was only 0.69 lbs. in 1978, but by 1999, averaged 4 lbs. per capita.

Building a viable small farm enterprise requires two parts; the technical aspects of production and business planning. We help you develop both to meet your goals for production through factsheets and articles, guidebooks, videos, and opportunities to connect with other growers, industry suppliers, and more.

Research at Cornell over the last decade has focused on the cultivation of four species: shiitake, lions mane, oyster, and stropharia in outdoor settings. We have recently expanded our resources to include more on indoor cultivation methods, as well. We are here to help! See our resources at this website, and get in touch.

News and Updates

September Mushroom Webinar to Feature Oyster on Straw Cultivation

By Kelsie Raucher | August 29, 2019

Next Wednesday, September 4, marks the lastest installment of Cornell Small Farms Program’s specialty mushroom project’s free monthly webinar series.  Held from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST, this month’s…

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Learn to Grow Mushrooms at September Workshop in NYC

By Claire Morrow | August 19, 2019

Interest in specialty mushroom production, or production of any mushroom other than the typical button, crimini, portabella, has grown enormously in recent years, as social and cultural influences have caused…

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Ecological Collaboratory Learns from Wellspring Forest Farm and School

By Kelsie Raucher | November 14, 2018

Agroforestry extension specialist, Steve Gabriel, works for the Cornell Small Farms Program in addition to owning and operating Wellspring Forest Farm and School with his wife, Elizabeth. Their farm and…

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Steve is an Extension Specialist focused on specialty mushroom production and agroforestry. Throughout his career, Steve has taught thousands of people about the ways farming and forestry can be combined to both benefit the ecology and economies of small farms.  He is also a farmer, author, hiker, and musician.

Read Articles by Steve Gabriel