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Agricultural Innovation Center receives $12K grant to develop mushroom growing program

ISSUED: 21 June 2022

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Shepherd University Agricultural Innovation Center at Tabler Farm will soon offer workshops and classes in mushroom growing thanks to a $12,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture Grant Program.

Veterans and Heroes provides funding to organizations that work directly with or provide support to law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical service, first responders, veterans, active-duty military, and/or their spouses and family within an agricultural capacity.

“This will allow us to buy the equipment required for propagating mushrooms,” said Dr. Peter Vila, associate professor of environmental and physical sciences and Veterans to Agriculture Program director.

Dr. Brooke Comer, visiting assistant professor of environmental and physical sciences, is working with Vila on the project. She said the program will demonstrate how to diversify a farming operation by growing mushrooms through a variety of different methods.

“Much of the focus within agriculture is on different enterprises that people can use to be successful,” Comer said. “Mushrooms are an aspect that frequently aren’t tapped into as much.”

Comer said mushrooms are popular at farmers markets and can be sold wholesale to restaurants.

“I think there’s a good market for it and not quite as much of a supply,” she said. “Tabler Farm is a demonstration site and being hands-on is important because it brings any kind of lecture components into focus and increases interest.”

Once the equipment needed to grow mushrooms is installed, students enrolled at Shepherd will learn about cultivation as part of their classes and research projects. The farm will also offer a series of veteran-focused workshops that will be open to the greater community and will cover how to grow mushrooms in bags and logs. Aramark Food Services at Shepherd will present a culinary workshop on using mushrooms in recipes. All workshops will be designed to offer hands-on activities.

“It’s a focus that I think veterans like a lot because they’re very practical minded, they have specific objectives, and that’s our focus on the grant as well,” Vila said.

Listen to Dr. Peter Vila and Dr. Brooke Comer here.

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