Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

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Loyola's Edible Mushroom Project

By Alex Schmidt

Brendan Goodwin, a junior studying food systems and sustainable agriculture, and Chance Moore, a junior studying environmental science, met second semester of their freshman year in their STEP (Solutions to Environmental Problems) food systems class. More than a year later, Goodwin and Moore had created Loyola’s first edible mushroom project. “We’ve learned how to transform an idea into a reality,” Goodwin said.

Not only has the project furthered their understanding of sustainability, the mushroom project has successfully engaged the Loyola community.

When Goodwin and Moore began the project, they did not have any experience with mycology, which is the biological study of fungi. “The STEP class is structured so that you are going to class and also picking up a side-project to work on,” Moore said.  Through STEP, they wrote a 20-page project proposal and began growing baby Portobello mushrooms.

Goodwin and Moore explained that their process of growing involves mushrooms decomposing sawdust, straw, and woodchips. “This turns common waste products into edible mushrooms,” Goodwin said.

The work Goodwin and Moore completed in the STEP class prepared them to expand their project, and they applied to the Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) the following fall. “The class had limited funding, but the TGIF allowed us to put our project together on a much larger scale,” Moore said. They organized a mushroom tasting, a growing class, and a morel foraging trip with TGIF funding.

By engaging with the Loyola community, Goodwin and Moore said they have learned just as much themselves. “We’ve discovered that there are so many people that have diverse backgrounds at our school, who might have ties to mushrooms through their own culture,” Goodwin said.

As of this fall, they have partnered with LUC Urban Agriculture and are growing lion’s mane, shiitake, blue oyster, and wine cap mushrooms.  They've also created a Mycology club and want to further sustainability at Loyola. “Once we can establish a bulk system of growing, maybe the mushrooms can be sold and used in the dining hall and we can research the health properties of mushrooms.”

Moore added that he would like to see more people get involved in the mycology club in the future, while Goodwin is considering a career in mushroom food systems. Both said that their ultimate goal would be the creation of a mycology department at Loyola.