Walley ’20 and Le ’20 Explore Sustainable Agriculture Through Mushroom Project

Indian Springs seniors Jack Walley ’20 and Dylan Le ’20 are exploring sustainable agriculture through an independent mushroom-growing project in the campus greenhouse.

The inspiration for Jack and Dylan’s project came from biology teacher Bob Pollard, who tends Indian Springs’ Fertile Minds Learning Garden and greenhouse. Mr. Pollard teaches students how to grow and cook vegetables and how to forage for and cook mushrooms.

Jack and Dylan enjoy the mushrooms that Mr. Pollard cooks. They decided to try cultivating some from scratch to prepare and share with friends. Dylan, the head of Indian Springs’ Culinary Research Club, already had some recipes in mind to sample.

The duo chose to cultivate a “blue oyster” variety, named for its briny, oyster-like flavor. Blue oyster mushrooms are native to Alabama and the Indian Springs campus and can colonize quickly and produce excellent crop yield in a minimal land area.

To begin growing their mushrooms, Jack and Dylan used inexpensive five-gallon buckets filled with sterilized woodchips and grain spawn that they purchased online. Once in the greenhouse, the mushrooms bloomed fully in one week and now require very little maintenance.

Jack and Dylan’s long-term plan is to increase the scale of their mushroom growth and create a renewable food source that could be used in the Indian Springs dining hall. They have been experimenting with “cloning” the mushrooms in the biology lab to create new colonies.

Jack is especially interested in sustainable agriculture and plans to continue his education and research in the field after graduating from Indian Springs this May. 

Dylan is currently working on an independent study in computer-automated agriculture with computer science teacher William Belser. Read more about Dylan here.