Mushroom Man Gets School Children Growing
Eight primary schools in Dungannon have been participating in an innovative scheme to teach children about mushroom farming, where they are experiencing the full supply chain, from growers to marketing and distribution to the supermarket.
Hughes Mushrooms, Northway Mushrooms and Sainsbury’s have all joined forces to bring ‘Mushroom Man’ into the classroom and this week the participating schools travelled to visit a commercial grower and to a mushroom ‘packhouse’ to find out more about the industry.
Throughout March the Mushroom Man has been delivering special blocks of mushroom compost to schools and supplying information and activity packs to help the children grow their own crops of white and chestnut mushrooms.
Mushroom Man Eugene Hughes of Hughes Mushrooms said: “We’ve been supporting Northern Ireland’s mushroom growers for three generations and we wanted to share our enthusiasm and passion for the industry by sharing our knowledge with the next generation in an interesting and fun way. We’ve been really impressed at just how interested the children have been in learning about mushrooms and there have been some impressive crops of mushrooms grown!”
The next phase of the Fungi Growing Club took place this week when schools visited a Northway Mushrooms grower, Frank Donnelly based at Collegelands near Moy. Here they saw mushroom growing on a commercial scale and how the farm has introduced environmentally friendly heating to reduce the carbon footprint of the mushrooms. This was followed by a trip to the Hughes Mushrooms Packhouse to see Frank’s mushrooms being packed and sent off to the supermarket.
Kieran Hughes, Hughes Mushrooms added, “Hughes Mushrooms have been supplying Sainsburys both locally and the rest of the UK for nearly 15 years, we hope the children will be fascinated to understand how food on display in a supermarket gets to them. ” All the visiting children were also provided with a history lesson on Trew & Moy Railway Station and how it linked to the present day Hughes Mushrooms by local railway expert Jim Donaghy.
Mrs Thompson, Bush Primary School said: “ This has been a fascinating project to be involved in. There is something really very mysterious about mushrooms and fungi and everyone involved, including teachers have learned so much about mushrooms and mushroom production, which is an important part of Northern Ireland’s agricultural output.
Mrs McAlinden , Edendork Primary School added “Eugene Hughes as the Mushroom Man has brought the whole project to life. The children have engaged with him really well and have thoroughly enjoyed watching their own mushrooms grow and we are all looking forward to discovering the end of the mushroom journey.”
At the end of April the children will finish off the project with a 7 aside football tournament, a mushroomy quiz and they’ll create their very own mushroom recipe ‘Try Tip’ for Sainsburys.
Elaine Shaw of Northway Mushrooms said: “We were delighted to work with Hughes Mushrooms on developing this really exciting educational project. Mushroom farming is a bit of a mystery to most people but it is a very important industry in Northern Ireland and one which we should be celebrating. Eugene Hughes as the Mushroom Man is an inspirational ambassador for mushrooms and I look forward to seeing this initiative grow and develop over the coming years.”
For additional information or to arrange interviews with any of the participants in the programme please contact Laura Hanthorn 028 87 784298/ Elaine Shaw 07799 711555
Laghey Primary School, Killyman P S, St Johns PS (Moy), Moy Regional PS, Bush PS, Klintyclay PS (Clonmore), The Howard PS (Moygashel) and Edendork PS