Feature Article 

Using materials you would otherwise throw in the trash, you can grow the platter of mushrooms you see pictured about, and I know this for a fact, because I grew these mushrooms on materials that would have otherwise ended up at the landfill! 

Smart farming is working with nature and mushroom farming is all about that. And, it has to do with the nature of mushrooms. As organisms, they take dead or dying material, consume it, and through some serious biochemical magic, produce a delectable food item. They are recyclers by nature. That is what they do. They recycle dead trees and leaves and roots and convert them into food. When you work with mushrooms, you harness their intrinsic recycling nature for your own betterment. 

And now we will get to one of our hot button topics. WASTE. There is so much waste in America, it is truly a crime. Beyond being morally questionable, waste is a total waste. Materials that could be used for something useful, end up in the landfill. I always thought the amount of garbage Americans produced was shocking, but then I married a Russian. I will just say that Russians throw NOTHING away. Toly can find a use for something that even I would classify as needing a trip to the dump. So, between the two of us, we decided we wanted to stop wasting all this stuff that we were wasting. 

In a distant other life, I hosted gardening television show, "The Urban Gardener",  and while doing the show, discovered you could grow Oyster mushrooms on just about anything, and that included junk mail. In fact, on one of my episodes, I did grow oyster mushrooms on junk mail. So, when we started talking about what we could do with all this stuff we were putting in the trash, I remembered my mushroom episodes. 

One of the biggest sources of trash for us was and is cardboard from Amazon boxes. Bless Amazon for they allow Toly and I to leave the farm as little as possible. We both think it is the best invention since the mobile phone. However, what to do with the endless stream of boxes that come with all the great stuff? The other item we produce a lot of is coffee grounds, because, I drink a lot of coffee. 


I think we can agree that these two items, Amazon boxes and coffee grounds are trash. But, what you might not know is that these two ingredients are ideal mushroom food and with them you can produce an endless supply of edible mushrooms. 

It should be said that most mushrooms are very particular about what they eat, how they eat, where they eat it, and so on. But, Oyster Mushrooms, are a really flexible mushroom. If you take organic material, like paper, cardboard, or coffee grounds, or a mix, they will happily digest it, and produce mushrooms. And, the great news is there are many different types of oysters and each has its own flavor. 

You can grow other types of mushrooms, but, I tend to stick with the easy kind. The other mushrooms require special conditions and growing mediums, and, I just want to do something to handle the trash I have on hand. So oysters it is. 

My process is pretty simple. I clean up the cardboard, removing all plastic tape and stickers, and cut it into manageable squares. The mushrooms grow in either mushroom bags or plastic buckets I order from home depot. I order the good grade plastic buckets from the depot and then drill ten holes in each bucket.

I then layer the bucket or bag with layers of cardboard and coffee grounds, like a lasagna of trash. Then, I sprinkle mushroom spawn, which I order from Northern Growers, seal the bag, or the bucket, and let it rest for some weeks. and presto, out come the mushrooms. 

Though we were successful growing mushrooms with these bits of throw away, we have gone onto growing them on a slightly more complicated diet. You are what you eat, and, I decided that we should add a bunch of additional nutrition to our growing medium to produce an even healthier product. So, now I add organic wheat bran, organic oat bran, organic rice hulls, and a mixture of grains to the mix. We get more mushrooms, and, we have noticed the flavor of the mushrooms is even better. 

In addition, our local Starbucks has been sensation gifting us with coffee grounds to be used in our mushroom growing. We only produce so many grounds, whereas a busy Starbucks produces heaps of grounds. I can't thank the Great Falls Starbucks enough for being so generous and so actively participating in our recycling process. 

This is totally my idea of Eco Farming. We are taking materials most people think of as useless, and turn them into a fantastic gourmet product. 

So, we make mushrooms available at the Great Falls Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Come out and buy some fantastic mushrooms. We have now extended our production to Lions Mane mushrooms which are super delicious. 

Let me finish with this. Mushrooms are super healthy. I did a bunch of research on the immunity boosting effects of mushrooms and concluded if you had anything serious that was based in poor immune function, be it an infection or cancer, you needed to be eating a lot of mushrooms. For that matter, if you were getting on a plane, and were about to be surrounded by a bunch of barking sick people, you needed to eat mushrooms. If you are interested in using mushrooms to boost your immunity, go to my other website and read about just one, Maitake, and you will be amazed at what health boosting capacities these mushrooms have!    


If you are interested in growing your own mushrooms, you certainly can. You can grown them on materials available to you, or you can order kits that are ready to fruit. You might want to experiment with a kit that is ready to go, and, if you like it, grow into making your own mushroom bags or buckets. I get all my stuff from Field and Forest, and I highly recommend them. They have been great and super helpful. 

Coffee Grounds 

Evidence of our Trash Production Crimes  

From Garbage to Gourmet 

‚ÄčDoctor Schar's

Eco Farm 

Amazon Boxes 

Growing Your Own Mushrooms: The Ultimate Recycling Project.