Comments

This research project would not have been possible without the help of many others. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my professor, Laurine Brown, for being my guide well beyond the limits of the seminar, to my classmates for thoughtful insight and camaraderie, to my key informants for generosity and knowledge, and to the great Paul Stamets for providing not only useful diagrams and citations, but for being the giant whose shoulders I stand on.

Abstract

The Peace Garden at Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU), the organic garden at the small liberal-arts university in Bloomington, Illinois, is devoted to growing nutritious, pesticide-free food to be sold locally in an attempt to counterbalance the various food-related issues which stem from conventional food systems. Mushrooms, fungi with many nutritional benefits, are not currently produced by the Peace Garden. However, the unique nature of mushrooms may be attractive to certain consumers and could further contribute to the Peace Garden's mission if produced. This study, conducted September to December 2013 is guided by the following question: What is the feasibility of implementing an effective fungiculture program at Illinois Wesleyan University's Peace Garden? A review of literature on mycology and fungiculture was conducted to develop a base understanding of these subjects, interviews with mushroom cultivation experts were conducted to explore the processes and challenges associated with fungiculture, managers of foodservice institutions were met with to gauge their likelihood of accepting mushrooms from the Peace Garden, a survey was developed and administered to a total of 43 shoppers in two farmers' market locations to gauge individual preferences of mushrooms and buying habits, and a focus group was held with the three employees of the IWU Peace Garden to determine the program's current strengths, weaknesses, and hopes for the future. Through these research methods, it has been determined that there are various barriers to implementing a successful fungiculture program at the IWU Peace Garden, including difficulties securing adequate labor, funding, and a stable location. However, if taking action to overcome these barriers is prioritized, the Peace Garden can gain sufficient funding through working with partner organizations, secure their location by developing a contract, and bring on a reliable labor force by offering a variety of student labor opportunities. If this is done, the expansion of the Peace Garden through implementation of new programs, such as a fungiculture program, is viable.

Disciplines

Civic and Community Engagement | Environmental Sciences

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