KOCHI: Muhammad Shafi, an autorickshaw driver in Malam Kunnu near Mukkam took up mushroom cultivation a couple of years ago to earn an additional income to run his family. But now, the 29-year-old man is one of the most reliable mushroom distributors in the hilly regions of Kozhikode district.
The oyster mushroom harvested from his farm, set up in a 10 cent plot adjacent to his house, is one of the unavoidable items on the menu of the Ayurveda Hospital canteen. So far he has not failed to deliver mushrooms to the canteen. After completing a diploma in Diesel Mechanics, Muhammad Shafi chose driving as his profession with an aim to devote some time for farming. “I spend my morning hours exclusively in my mushroom farm; only after that I don the role of a driver,” smiles the young farmer.
Instead of opting for vegetable cultivation, he went for mushroom cultivation as he was ready to take risks. His wife Raheela says that her soft-spoken husband turns eloquent when asked about mushrooms. “He is a passionate farmer and that is why he was able to set up another farm on the terrace of his house within a short span,” she says. His mother, 50-year-old Fathima, also helps her son make it a profitable venture. With the encouragement of the officials with the Agriculture Department, he attended various training camps. To increase his expertise he attended a special session on ‘spawn culture’ to develop quality spawns. “The timely intervention of the Agriculture Department officials have helped me a lot to avoid errors,” he says.
Though milky mushroom(paalkoon) is a year-round-crop, oyster mushroom (chippi koon) is a seasonal crop and has many takers. The complementary packets of mushrooms that he distributed among shopkeepers in the initial stage increased his consumers. “Those who taste mushroom dishes for the first time will become their ardent fans,” he smiles. Going eloquent on the medicinal quality of oyster mushroom, Shafi says, “There are still people who are apprehensive about the edibleness of mushroom, but from my experience I have come to know that it is the best to improve immunity. A plate of any kind of mushroom dish will help you keep your energy levels high,” he says.
Unavailability of quality spawns was what troubled him during the initial period. To overcome the adverse situation, he set up a mini lab at his house. In his words, farmers have to learn spawn culture, otherwise they would be forced to rely on labs in and around the state to get quality spawns. He is now busy renovating his farm to increase the quality and quantity of his produce.