By Vina Medenilla
Jade C. Calingasan, 33, and her husband Ruel B. Calingasan, 34, are the partners behind Woody Bags Mushroom Farm in Cuenca, Batangas.
The couple was able to make a business out of a 40 square meters space by turning it into a mushroom growing house that can accommodate up to 6,000 mushroom fruiting bags.
At this point, the couple only focuses on growing white oyster mushrooms.
The start of it all
The business idea sprouted in late 2018 after the couple attended a training seminar on mushroom production. Out of their passion and excitement, they were able to build a growing house by December of the same year.
Their first harvest was in April 2019. A few months later, they started participating in bazaars and it became an opportunity to increase their brand awareness.
Fast forward to the first quarter of 2020, things started to get out of hand when the Taal volcano erupted and was followed by the COVID-19 lockdown in March. That time, many of their plans got canceled and according to Jade, they were brought to their knees because of the double whammy that 2020 had brought about.
Driven by their hopes and desire to continue working with local farmers from whom they get agricultural wastes for the substrates, the duo managed to get back on track last November 2020.
When they came back, they introduced a new product—mushroom cracklings—called Kabuchips.
Although it was a rough start for this husband and wife tandem, they are making progress slowly but surely. As Jade defines their journey, “It is a walk in the park with land mines.”
They are now at that stage of coordinating with government agencies to improve their products and widen their market.
“When we started growing mushrooms, we decided to manufacture mushroom products, and selling fresh mushrooms is only secondary. Our game plan is to use our own harvest to make [mushroom products], develop a wider market reach, and teach other local farmers to grow their own mushrooms [so we can] buy from them,” said Jade, who grew up in a family that farms for a living.
Growing, growing, and growing
The business, as of the interview, employs four workers, which is guided by Ruel. Jade’s non-biological father and cousins also help in maintaining the mushroom house.
Woody Bags Mushroom Farm, which now generates a maximum gross income of P100,000 per month, offers fresh oyster mushrooms (P35 to P250) and value-added mushroom products like mushroom and alamang, mushroom powder, and mushroom sisig.
For them, the biggest challenge yet is the short shelf life of fresh mushrooms since “they can perish in a matter of hours and thus, must be sold immediately.”
Jade underscored two things that are key to successful mushroom farming. “First is the proper post-harvest handling to naturally preserve and lengthen the shelf life of fresh oyster mushrooms. The second is processing mushroom-based products. Knowing how to do these two, we are able to add value to our harvest and tap a bigger market.”
With proper training and the right mindset, the couple makes the most of their mushroom yield and prevents cases such as overproduction and spoilage of mushrooms.
Photos courtesy of Woody Bags Mushroom Farm