Sometimes only in retrospect do patterns and shapes become discernible in the course of a year, as we look back over the year via the lenses of The Mushroom People maybe some trends might appear.
January began with the usual round up of export figures for food and drink from Ireland standing at about €8.65 billion. The agri-food sector was going from strength to strength.There were also photographs of the Irish delegation at the GEPC meeting in Brussels, an offshoot of the European Association of Mushroom Growers – some key players in the Irish mushroom industry were in attendance.There was news of expansion at AST Totten Ltd and news of link up between Teagasc and the HDC. There was news of Greyfirars in England being sold and two items from Belgium on two different compost companies there Sterckx and Coenegrachts. Mushrooms were once more being feted for their health giving properties – this time the vitamin D content was reported to be excellent to ward of degenerative eye disease. Oil prices were vexing Stalker, as was news of the sting jet weather phenomenon which caused such high winds over Ireland and Scotland. And a stinker of a note regarding life in Kilnaleck Co.Cavan, to do with the errant compost smells. A new species of mushroom Mycena Lucentipes was noted. A piece on the safety and origin of food in your trolley quoted the late minister Shane McEntee extensively, testament to his vigour in defending Irish food and Horticulture interests. Suffolk Mushrooms had job opportunities going and the owner of Sussex mushrooms Monaghan Mushrooms was looking forward to a bright future in Essex. Eco2 were advertising systems to help slash energy bills, Atlas were advertising labels and stickers, andHooymans compost was still courting the Irish market.
February flounced in with news of Poland’s mushroom exports increasing significantly. Word on the USA’s oldest mushroom farm going solar and an inkling of the influence of Aussie mushroom promotion techniques with news of a mushroom promotion campaign in Tasmania – mushroom mania it was too. There was a mushroom cartoon that sneaked in too that tickled Stalker’s funny bone. News that the magic variety of mushroom could treat depression was examined, as was news of an increase in Dutch mushroom demand, especially for exotics. There was an item on how many persons were employed in the Irish mushroom industry, with an answer in the Daíl of equivalent to about 2,500. Six supposedly cancer fighting mushrooms got a space – with the latest research indicating that 50% of men and 40% of women can expect to contract some form of cancer, investigating the anti-cancer mushroom may become a more popular pastime. The inaugural meeting of Mush TV was covered as was news of a large IT deal between Belfast firm Equiniti ICS and Monaghan Mushrooms.
In notes, the townlands around Middletown were bedecked with black and white flags in honour or the Na Fianna hurling exploits, getting to the All Ireland Intermediate Club Championship final. There was news of a new wee Codd, baby Cameron. There was a farm safety message reiterated the North,much needed in light of tragic events later in the year. Rules on misshapen fruit and veg being abandoned was noted as was the erection of a new super structure in the Armagh area. Non-itch plastic insulation was noted as the industry preference – and there was much more to boot.
March arrived with the news of some advances in extending the shelf life of mushrooms using a new process called pluQ. There was also news of radiation found in mushrooms from Fukushima. There was more news on Mush TV the project to find solutions for Trichoderma and Virus X. Mushroom with enhanced levels of vitamin D were going national in Australia. There was news of new rules to combat worker abuse in the Dutch mushroom sector – a topic that has been reignited at the end of the year by
the vice-premier of the Netherlands who has urged people to stop buying mushrooms from Albert Heijn, the leading Dutch supermarket. The science item was on Hyperspectral imaging for the detection of microbial spoilage of mushrooms – hyrperspectral sounds like something out of Ghost Busters.Stalker had spotted Brendan Mc Kenna in the latest round of PR from Invest NI. News from Scully was that they liked to kill flies – sounding like Daleks – EXTERMINATE! There was a fun guy birthday card, and news of the graduate programme at Monaghan. And weather conditions were said to be affecting mushroom production in Northern Ireland.
March was also a mournful month with news of the untimely death of Amycel rep Carl Bozicek . A fuller obituary for Carl was carried in the April edition.
April saw the launch of a new advice service for farmers in the UK. There was the news that the Balmoral Show was perhaps moving to the site of the old Maze prison – news confirmed later in the year. More information was forthcoming on oil prices, always a sticking point. Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms got a wee look in. The main article was a disturbing look at the death of mushroom workers on the farm in British Columbia – one that clearly lay the blame of the deaths on the unsafe work place that the farm was.
Stalker was amazed at the news of the new site for the Balmoral Show – a very sure indicator of changed times in Northern Ireland. Reports also indicated a glut of mushrooms on the market, thus pushing prices down for growers. There was news of expansion at Hooymans to come in the near future, a traditional Polish mushroom festival, and rain or April showers. It turns out to have been the wettest year on record for the UK – you can be sure for Ireland too! There was news of high level visitors from China to Ireland and of a reciprocal visit to China by our very own David Totten.A house built in 1971 resembling a mushroom was sold for $1m, and someone growing mushrooms with toilet roll as substrate – not at all nice. And a reminiscence of the days when filling the car with petrol cost £1 – the good old days!
May managed to be without mayhem – there were reports on Vietnam hoping to increase their exports of mushrooms to $200m by 2015, and the author Ian McEwan warning folk to pick your porcini before the Poles beat you to it . Suffolk Mushrooms Ltd got a mention for some health and safety violations, and Sussex Mushrooms got a mention for a muti-million pound new development at Thakeham. It would be easy enough to mix the two companies up. Residents were protesting at some emissions from Newington Farm in England. There was news on pesticide training by Teagasc – intensive 3 day courses to ensure that those that need to know how to safely use the pesticides in the industry get the proper training. The Teagasc census of mushroom production for ROI 2011 was also included.
Eco2 were advertising their design and installation of energy solutions for the mushrooms industry, and they also had a piece in giving more details on the wood chip heating at the Swanlinbar Mushrooms operation in Co. Cavan.
It was noted that Declan McKeever featured in the Mushroom Business edition 52. There was a departure at Reen, whenBrendaheaded off to pastures new. AST Totten was noted making sense of air sensor pricing. Mush Comb were generating interest in their “ask the consultant “column. And there was talk of shops in Monaghan taking the punt again – euro collapse fear was running high.
The June edition carried news of the pesticide usage survey by the monitoring group at the Agriculture and Food Science Centre at Newforge Lane Belfast. Ten products were surveyed in the study. One interesting finding of the report was inappropriate use by some growers of bendiocarb, with applications continuing after the compost have been placed in the mushroom house. Elsewhere Minister McEntee was launching a new group called Organic Focus. He appointed Mel O’Rourke to chair the new group.At the Balmoral Show there was a new feature - the Northway stand, supported by JFM was a big hit. Visitors at the show were invited to enter the mushroom tunnel and go on a mushroom trail providing a lot of fun with hands-on experience of mushroom cultivation. Some news from Australia featured a 9,800m growing facility built by Christiaens near Melbourne.
There was also news of another big farm at Yatala in NSW Australia. Beta glucan in medicinal mushrooms was reported as giving significant health benefits.
In packaging news Mc Shane were proud of their BRC A grade packaging – the highest grade possible from the independent body.
In notes there was news of a Scor skit involving ex grower Seamus Cassidy from Ballgawley – we may not be surprised if Seamus turns up on our televisons soon the way he’s going. It was noted that the full text of Francisco Arqueros’s PHD Workers Against Institutions was now available online. There was news of a new type of mushrooms called the Spongebob, and a wallaby on the loose in the Brantry.
July arrived as dull weather wise as possible – all rain and cloud and gloom. Rain was affecting agricultural livelihoods all over Ireland and the UK. In Ireland rainfall was at three times normal, and June had been the wettest on record. The Olympics were imminent and Stalker was gearing up for any Olympic mushroom stories, there had to be some. From China there was the story of the reporter who mixed up a mushroom with a sex toy – it had to happen sometime. A Finnish mushroom guide had a deadly mushroom down as good to eat – quite the mistake to make. And apparently raw mushrooms were the new fad slimming diet aid – according to celeb Roxanne Pallet, whoever she is.
Nasty niffs were exercising noses on Malta. The wide variety of mushrooms on sale in supermarkets also made the news – one new type Mousserons from Bulgaria – described as chewy – was a new one.
David Totten was makinga timely contribution writing about how it was time to control our costs – he managed to touch on all aspects of the production process. There waspiece by Paul Stamets on vitamin D enriched mushrooms. An item also on how fungi may have stopped coal formation 300million years previously. It has implications for global carbon sequestration today. There was news of a six day mushroom composting master class happening in Holland in October, put on by the Mushroom Office. And there was an item on farm injuries having risen 35% in the last 5 years in the South. We all know that the North has been experiencing a dramatic rise in farm fatalities.
Into the doldrums of August – the Olympics were in full swing, and in the magazine there was news of the upcoming event Horticulture 2012, celebrating the centenary of Greenmount college. A whole raft of events were planned for the day with seminars and a trade exhibition. Also in the magazine the first of a series of articles by Nikodem Saxson – the first one concentrating on the use of supplements in compost.
There was more news on the effectiveness of compounds found in mushrooms to improve the efficacy of cancer drugs. When scientists are saying 50% of men and 40% of women will experience one type of cancer or another in their lifetime – it is interesting to note that mushrooms seem to be at the forefront of the battle against the ever burgeoning disease. There was news of a school in Oz involved in a mushroom growing experimental trial – it was seen as a good way to promote the produce and promote interest in the sector too. The Aussie PR machine was also noted - the bag heads video on YouTube getting a mention. It’s still worth a look. The price of milk was making the national headlines – basically when farmers aren’t getting the price to cover costs things are not working properly. The combine harvester world record was broken in Co. Meath again. There was the big ISMS conference in Beijing. Stalker unearthed a connection to mushrooms and the Olympics – equine competitors were apparently using mushrooms nutritional supplements. The rise in farm accidents in the North was reported as unprecedented with 20 fatal accidents in 19 months. And there was a call for the ban on peat use in products before 2020.
September had photos from the Hort Day at Greenmount – by all accounts the agri-trade show and seminars went very well. There was even word that a grower had purchased four new improved mushroom picking machines at the event. Elsewhere C John Smith was blasting the Rural Payments Agency for potentially acting illegally. News of a profits plunge at Donegal Creameries and US mushroom sales topping the $1 billion mark. There was the publication of the annual review and outlook for 2011/2012 in the South, and a worrying item on how Saudi Arabia may run out of oil to export by 2030 – that would certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons. How Holland and Poland square up in the competitive mushroom sector was examined, as was news of the mushroom industry in the US going pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the USA.
In notes, McShane had put on a good show at the hort event in Greenmount., they also had a pink range of punnets for a Tesco Breast cancer awareness campaign. There was an item on Monaghan Mushrooms expecting profits of €9m, with news that the company was likened to Ryanair. The difference between a quonset, an igloo, a shed and a tunnel was teased out – it all depends on where you are in the world. Dillon were apparently doing some R&D on a new picking device. The Unimush MD had new wheels, the Mushroom Research Institute in Lebanon was seeking solar energy info, slimming world were touting mushrooms as good slimming food. News of the imminent nuptials of Stuart Whitehall to fiancée Rebecca reached Stalker’s ears. There were gripes about rural broadband and slurry spreading extensions. Stalker wondered about fifty sheds of something or other, and the best quote of the year maybe was an oldie from Niels Bohr, the renowned Danish physicist – “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” News of Donegal’s All Ireland win resounded round the hills.
October was another fun-filled month with how to feed your mushrooms naturally addressed in an article by the Nutrigain folk. There was also a science article on the problem of green mould – a source of significant losses in mushroom production. Once again mushrooms were linked to carbon storing on the eco front by some new research from the French National Institute for Agricultural research and the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. The upside of genomic research would mean mushroom breeding for improved agronomic characteristics. There was a warning about picking wild mushrooms in Ireland from the FSAI and a report of a revival in truffle hunting in England. There were mushrooms in the movies and a report on a mushroom facility in the US being turned into a fish farm – sounded very fishy indeed. There was also news of a continuing planning row rumbling on at Thakeham – the Sussex Mushrooms operation owned by Monaghan Mushrooms. Monterey Mushrooms were winning awards for their sustainable packaging in the US and getting great feedback from consumers.
In notes the oil price was still exercising Stalker, there was even talk of significant oil finds off the coast of Cork. There was a line reportedly from Confucius – he who does not economise will have to agonise. The folk at JFM were out partying Gangnam style at the evening do of service engineer Ronan Donaghy’s wedding. There was even some photographic evidence of business being done at the Greenmount trade show, with the McShane crew with some potential customers. And Anser Labs were advertising their expertise in the issue as well.
There were some novelties in November – with news of a new design for mushroom house doors emanating from the Armagh/Tyrone border.Another novelty that month was the beaming visage of Bob Holtermans who had sent out his Christmas Cards early to get ahead of the rush – always enterprising and surprising that guy. There was news that the UK had gone mad for mushrooms with sales of the fresh produce reaching an all time high. It would seem as if the PR push was working. Conversely there was a report of rotten mushrooms being found in German supermarkets, not a good headline at all. There was news of a fire causing $50million worth of damage at the Monarto farm, part of the Adelaide Mushrooms group, the second largest producer of mushrooms in Australia. October was officially the Month of Mushrooms according to the Mushroom Bureau.There was a unique opportunity being advertised for a grower wanted in South Australia.The Basis Certificate in Crop Protection got a write up. US sales of fresh mushrooms were on the rise and there was a button mushrooms good for prostate cancer item – the research was cautioned as prelimary, but still encouraging.
In notes the news that mushrooms were now the UK’s third most favoured vegetable was heralded. Mushroom Bob got his fizzog in with his cheekily early xmas card. Stalker noted that Tesco were promoting the produce in their pre-Christmas magazine, and there was a TV advert from Tesco too with a mushroom as the hero. Stalker also noted a comet to come in late 2013 and some mushroom worship from South America in centuries past – it’s always weird and wonderful what makes it onto the pages!
As the year drew to a close the December issue had a new wee splash of colour about it to warm the cockles of reader’s hearts.With JFM’s Santa upfront wishing readers a merry Christmas, the news was of tonnes of ugly produce now being sold as opposed to ditched as supermarkets relaxed rules on how veg looks.There was news of a mushroom spat at the Swedish academy, and news that mushroom farming was becoming popular in India. There were recipes for baking with mushrooms and advice on the use of approved chemicals. Supermarkets were featured again as in the UK they now face large fines if found to be treating farmers unfairly according to new laws to be introduced in parliament. There was a piece by Paul Stamets on the reishi mushroom to round of the year – the mushroom of immortality no less. In notes Nutrigain were teaming up with Mc Don re their nutrient product and appointingConway Services to distribute their Sporekill product. Elsewhere Scully were appointed sole trader for Omnicide and Disolite. There was news that theCarbury plant in Kildare was at near full production. A new health giving compound in oyster mushrooms was reported – the alpha glucans. And the Mayan apocalypse that never came to pass was also noted. Best headline was “Tweety of Rome” about the Pope hitting Twitter.
Online there was finally news of a change to the sector based scheme, changes that were to happen in January 2013. There was the terribly sad news of the tragic death of Agriculture and Horticulture Minister Shane McEntee – people were truly shocked by that.
All in all it was a year of ups and downs, with enough going on to garner interest in the mushroom industry both locally, nationally, continent wide and globally. Long may it continue to be so. May 2013 turn out to be a lucky year for the industry.