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Friday, June 23, 2017

Farmer Friday- Deep Root Mushroom Farm

Groups of inoculated sugar maple logs in "Shiitake Land"

             Whether they are developing in the garden, sprouting from stacks of logs in an area described as “shiitake land”, or growing in bags within a protected shed, it is evident that mushrooms encompass the entire property of Deep Root Mushroom Farm, in Canton, NY, and that is just the outside. Inside the Corse’s mountain home, one can easily come across bags of mushrooms in the kitchen, the laundry room, the basement, the bedroom, along with numerous mason jars housed in the upstairs mushroom lab. What is most astounding is that Mike Corse, of Deep Root, explains that his mushroom growth is currently in a state of limbo. There are times, he explains, when the refrigerator is stocked with multiple varieties of mushroom and has to halt production because there simply is not enough storage to support more crop yields.
Mike Corse filling a bag that will produce Grey Oyster mushrooms
             Mike recounts that his interest to grow mushrooms was sparked when he found himself assisting a local grower inoculate logs. This curiosity towards mushroom cultivation, Mike claims, resonated with him more than anything else ever has and still motivates him today.
            Mushroom farming was not an instant lifestyle change but rather a gradual progression into the profession. It was a process of taking baby steps to see where it would go, filled with numerous mistakes on the way.
            It may seem ironic to be worried about cleanliness when dealing with fungi, but when you look inside Deep Root’s mushroom lab on the second floor of Mike’s house, you will see masks, gloves, and sanitation equipment. 
              Just a sneeze could contaminate an entire bag of mushrooms. Mike explains the delicacy of the process, “they’re not as forgiving as a seed, but more fascinating in my book”, and it is this fascination that spreads the Deep Root name across St. Lawrence County.
You may have eaten some of Deep Root’s mushrooms at Jake’s On The Water. Distributing to Jake’s was a push to become more dedicated to his mushrooms and prompted Mike to improve his farming. Today, Mike spends most of his time with his mushrooms. He quit his job at Nature’s Storehouse to devote his time towards learning and growing these fungi. On the property you can find at least eight different mushroom varieties; Oyster, King Oyster, Shiitake, Wine-caps, Blewit, Almond Portobello, Reishi, and Pink Oyster.
Grey Oyster Mushrooom
            “I don’t know why” is the immediate answer Mike responds with when asked what keeps him involved in mushrooms, but as he continues describing his work it is rapidly apparent that there are many. “There is always something new around the corner”, he explains when describing his consistent allure towards understanding the evolution and knowledge needed to successfully execute mushroom growth.
He also alludes to an interest that derives from the various uses of the mushroom. Many varieties are highly medicinal and produce numerous health benefits, they serve as a great source of protein, some can have deadly consequences if identified incorrectly. In fact, mushrooms have a closer biochemical and genetic relationship to humans than they do to plants. Yet people are often leery when it comes to embracing the mushroom, there is something about this food source that make so many people uneasy, ”like snakes”, Mike explains. 
This captivation is paired with the convenience he found with growing mushrooms. Mushroom farming doesn’t require weeding and allows a person to work in the shade. It also does not rely on the quality of soil, as much vegetable farming would, which Mike explains is something they lack on their property. Similarly, he can grow mushrooms inside his house. This allows production to continue throughout the winter in the convenient environment that is his kitchen table. At first, the mushroom was a smart and strategic choice to cultivate, but has quickly developed into a passion that continues to receive more and more recognition.
Shiitake Mushroom
             One of the most rewarding aspects, Mike has taken away from mushroom farming, is the ability to fill a niche of a diverse and unique food source to people to people of the St. Lawrence County. If you get the chance to visit the Canton Farmers Market on Tuesdays, between 9-2pm or Potsdam's Farmers Market on Saturday between 9-2pm, you may get the chance to meet the mushroom man himself.