February 7, 2023

Twenty-three years old Shawnie Dhale Bitso of Tuba, Benguet is changing the way young people view agriculture.
Through his new- found passion in mushroom propagation, Shawnie is paving the way for people his age to change their mindset that agriculture is a lowly profession.
In his family’s residence at Sitio Begis, Poblacion, Shawnie has set up his mushroom propagation area, called Sanagi Farm.
Most of the varieties propagated at Sanagi Farm are oyster mushrooms, but the farm’s main selling points are the yellow and pink rose petal-shaped mushrooms, grown in fruiting bags hung in a space beside Shawnie’s family home. Each fruiting bag is sold at P75 each.
A kilo of the oyster mushrooms, both the white and colored, are sold at P300, on the average.
Shawnie said the price might be exorbitant for some, but explained that this is because most of the the raw materials he uses are bought, unlike in other areas like the lowlands, where growers could get their raw materials for free.
Shawnie said he is grateful to have found interest in mushroom growing at his age, as he realized that this agricultural endeavor requires him to learn the techniques on his own.
“I don’t have a formal training in mushroom production. I just tried it because my parents are growing some. The process and the techniques I am applying right now are all improvised and I am still learning things as I go,” he said.
Among the things he learned is that, agriculture requires patience, as there is no short cut to food production.
“I tried doing it in the pasteurization (sterilization) of my mushroom fruiting bags. I lost more because the bags got contaminated and no mushrooms grew,” he said.
The fruiting bags are sterilized by boiling them in a container with water for eight hours over controlled heat. Shawnie tried doing it for six hours.
While his endeavor does not require him to toil under the scorching heat, Shawnie realized that agriculture, indeed, is a hard work; but it is tougher and more challenging to propagate mushrooms as they require a different environment to grow in.
Aside from the tedious process of preparing the fruiting bags, which contain the mixture used to grow the mushrooms, Shawnie said the environment must be sterile.
For example, the material he uses to prick the fruiting bags to allow the mushrooms to “sprout” must be sterilized. Otherwise, the entire bag will be contaminated and no mushroom will grow.
“The pricking material must be sterilized with rubbing alcohol, but not just any kind of alcohol. It should be the one that (contains) 70 percent (by volume),” he said.
He added one should not attend to the fruiting bags if they are ill because they could contaminate the bags.
“So with (the threat) of Covid-19 (Coronavirus disease-19), I can say that the food I am growing is very safe.”
As mushrooms are also good alternatives to pork as a protein source, Shawnie said Sanagi Farm is helping address the threat of the African swine fever to food security.
Shawnie, a graduate of Information Technology, has also tapped social media to market his produce through the Osyster Mushroom Sanagi Farm page on Facebook.
Sanagi Farm, located along the Palispis-Aspiras Highway, is open for visitors and individuals who want to learn about mushroom propagation.
Entrance to the farm is free, as Shawnie wants to encourage as many people, especially young individuals like him, as possible, to also venture in food production.
“Young people must venture in agriculture, any kind of agriculture. While it may be profitable to be employed in large firms, let us not abandon agriculture because we need food to survive,” he said.
If he was not into mushroom propagation, Shawnie said he would have been engaged in hydroponics, also a soilless crop production that requires small spaces, like mushroom growing.
To young people his age, Shawnie has this to say: Agriculture is profitable, you just need to learn to be innovative.” – Jane B. Cadalig