Mushroom farming has been one of the greatest ventures that I have engaged in. My partner and I came to the decision to become mushroom farmers after identifying a gap in the market in mushroom products. Being young and energetic, and straight from campus with no jobs, we saw this as a good opportunity to introduce ourselves into an activity that will generate some income for us. It is within this period that the idea to do mushroom farming was born.
It has been a journey of continuous learning with no stops. The following are the most fundamental lessons that we have learnt in mushroom farming;
Farming is like any other business, a farmer is per say, a business owner. Having this in mind, a farmer needs to protect and always be there for the business. It is only the owner of the farm that will take the best care of the business. It is only the wearer of the shoe that will know where it pinches. When we started mushroom farming, our number one drive was to own the business and make it ours. We own it, making it our daily livelihoods. More like a child. We did not realize how much time we spent away from our families and friends to work in the farm and giving it our all. In a nutshell, every farmer must be prepared to lose the comfort zone that they are now in order to venture successfully into farming. We realized more and more time was being directed to the farms and this also included personal resources that come by as sacrifices towards the well-being of the business.
Initial farming costs are relatively high, especially in mushroom farming. There is a lot to be spent, from infrastructure to raw materials to marketing strategies of your entrant product. Being a venture, there were many hidden costs involved. There was also some level of difficulty in sourcing for raw materials. As a start-up, capital is usually high, regardless the business that you are in. So what to do? We sought to look for resources that we could re-use especially materials to build the mushroom houses and the mixing houses areas. Also, in a bid to optimize costs, we sought to buy in bulk. This being from the packaging materials to the raw inputs in the composting phases 0of mushroom production. We also eliminated too many workers on farm site to cut costs.
Mushroom farming requires one to master the art of patience. Unlike other crop farming processes, mushroom farming, especially the button mushroom farming requires great care and time to ensure that spawns reach maturity and actually produce mushrooms without any hindrances. Being very involving, it was easy to lose faith along the way. As mentioned earlier in point #1, farming is your little business, and you do not abandon it even when the heart is faint.
Right from the start even before you begin composting phases, it is really important to identify your market. For us, we chose to build a brand that will sell our mushrooms. We realized that, at the end of the day, we were producing mushrooms, but something else needed to be done, and just not be like the rest in the market. The best way to identify these gaps, is to look at the current markets and look for that which is not there, or rather can be improved and build on that. Branding being our strategy, we went to extent of offering value addition services to customers. In our market research we found that there is a good number of the larger population that do not know what button mushrooms are, and it goes farther, that there are some who do not know even how to cook it, how do you sell mushrooms to such a person? And our light bulb moment came right then, and we could ask ourselves, what if we sell our mushrooms alongside descriptive recipes? What if we conduct a sample tasting in supermarket stores? By this we were able to penetrate a nearly impenetrable market.
Many people would approach and ask us, “Are you successful?”, “How much money are you making?”, “Is this business worth it?” The questions are endless till date. I will refer to point #1 again because, this is a business. Being a business, it is an entity on its own with its own vision and mission. Every business owner seeks profits but are we all realistic to ourselves? As the business is being drafted in its planning stages, it is important to every mushroom farmer to consider the kind of profits to make and also growth strategies. Accountability of each and every expense and income of the business right from day one instills some level of discipline that will see the business through the right path of financial decisions. In defining your level of success sets a good momentum for your business and also expectations.
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