The mushroom industry continues to grow vigorously following the 2020 shutdown, despite a persistent labor shortage.


NEW GARDEN – The mushroom industry is facing a labor shortage.

Mushrooms are grown as a special crop year round, so the federal government currently does not allow industry players to apply for seasonal visas to increase their workforce.

“The biggest problem we have is the workforce,” said Joseph Basciani, CFO of the Basciani group of companies.

“Currently, most companies do not have enough manpower to harvest all the products that are in the mushroom litter. This is the number one problem, ”he said.

“The mushrooms are carefully selected,” added Basciani.

The Basciani family owns and manages over 100 growing homes, centered around Avondale and Toughkenamon in southern Chester County.

According to Basciani, the company employs people who earn between $ 60,000 and $ 70,000 a year in mushroom hunting, and they say they are the best at their jobs.

“This year is a very interesting year of changing working conditions and the workforce,” says Basciani.

Basciani said the family did not cancel the March 13, 2020 leave at the end of last summer.

“It’s as bad as you can think, but if it gets worse, you can go to the other side,” Basciani explains. The USDA has done a great job for the mushroom industry. It was a great job. “

Basciani Foods is headquartered on Penn Green Road in New Garden Township. The site has a packaging and distribution center with more than 300 employees. Founded in 1925, Basciani Foods is a fifth generation company.

Adjacent to the Delaware border, New Garden produces about 26 percent of the country’s mushrooms.

“There is a rich agricultural heritage in southern Chester County,” said John Lawrence, MP for West Grove (R-13). “Horses, mushrooms, nurseries, field crops and dairy farmers in our region contribute to the agricultural backbone of our community, and they are becoming largely interdependent. “

The effects of the economic shutdown, as well as domestic and global industries, have affected mushroom production here in Chester County.

“Some mushroom growers were hit hard by the closure of restaurants at the start of the COVID pandemic,” Lawrence said. “The situation has recovered to some extent, but this is another factor that facilitates the integration of the mushroom industry as a whole.”

In Pennsylvania, the mushroom industry suffered an industrial loss of about $ 42 million in the second quarter of 2020, according to Rachel Roberts, president of the American Mushroom Institute.

“Chester County alone lost about $ 33.8 million in the three-month quarter,” Roberts said. “These are estimates because the differences between the restaurant industry and retailers, and vendors who supply both at different levels, can make the overall calculation difficult.”

According to Roberts, there are 53 commercial mushroom farms in Chester County. The industry serves two segments: retail, such as grocery stores, and food services, such as restaurants.

In County Chester, the mushroom industry is part of the region’s complex and unique agroecosystem.

“The mushroom industry inputs and raw material ecosystems depend heavily not only on the horse industry, but also on the farmers who grow corn, wheat and soybeans,” Roberts told the Daily Local News Thursday.

“Their harvest by-products are used to make mushroom compost where the mushrooms grow. This is a wonderful agricultural by-product which normally has a direct impact on the environment as agricultural waste, but which is used as a recycled product for mushroom products. It’s a system, ”says Roberts.

When mushrooms are grown, the same compost is sold to farmers as a soil conditioner for crops, or sold to greenhouses and sold to gardeners, Roberts said.

Additionally, for decades, mushroom farmers have purchased stable litter, which is the straw used in stalls to make compost from local horse facilities.

According to Roberts, the mushroom industry is part of the agricultural history of Chester County. She said the industry has attracted local farmers for generations.

According to Roberts, the industry has worked in Chester County for many years, as Chester County is a place where people live, work and send their children to school.

One third of Chester County is permanently preserved as historic farmland with open spaces, farms, watersheds and forests. And like the horse industry, the mushroom industry has played an important role in the community’s ongoing conservation efforts.

There are several ways to support the mushroom industry.

“Eat more mushrooms,” Roberts said.

Also tell members of Congress how important the mushroom industry workforce is to the region.

On July 20, West Bradford MP Christina Sappei (D-158th) hosted a hearing in New Garden Township on the complexity of the mushroom industry in Pennsylvania. In the economic interest of the nation.

The event, entitled “Agriculture and future work”, featured testimonials from local actors.

“All farms in the region are experiencing extreme labor shortages and we are no exception,” said Glencourt, general manager of Laurel Valley Farms.

“Since the end of the pandemic, it has been almost impossible to find qualified mechanics, welders and machine operators. Before the pandemic increased to a labor shortage of 20% this year, 10% of skilled workers. Was in the red. “

Founded in 1979, Laurel Valley Farms employs 75 people in the operating departments of both companies. “Our compost is the foundation of five proprietary farms that employ over 2,000 people,” said Court.

“42 years later, Laurel Valley has grown into the largest single-site mushroom composting company in North America,” said Court. “The company is currently owned by five mushroom farms that represent three of Pennsylvania’s largest packaging companies: Basciani Foods, Phillips Mushrooms and Giorgi Foods.

According to Cote, the compost mushroom production at Laurel Valley Farm accounts for about 25% of local mushroom production and 12% of national mushroom production.

“Staff costs are rising and staff shortages are hampering future growth for us and the industry,” said Court. “We desperately need a reliable program to hire and hire people who are ready to work in agriculture. “

Stephen Alaband, director of the new garden, testified that the municipality has more than 900 mushroom houses.

“Mushroom cultivation is essential to the local economy of New Garden Township and beyond. There are thousands of families whose livelihoods depend heavily on growing mushrooms, ”Alaband said. Help the city with improved infrastructure. “

“The economic impact on the region is significant,” said Sappei, a mushroom industry in southern Chester County. “The revenues generated by the industry help provide strong schools, jobs and sub-industries and contribute to the operating costs of our municipality.

Sappey added that many people are moving to Chester County because Chester County is a great place to live.

“Our mushroom industry contributes significantly to what we value here,” she said.

“Chester County is part of American Garden Capital. With over 30 horticultural assets within a 30 mile radius across the Greater Philadelphia area, Longwood Gardens is the crown jewel of this collection, ”said the executive director of the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau. said Susan Hamley.

“It resonates both nationally and internationally,” Hamley said. “Great art and culture, vineyards and breweries, great culinary landscapes. Remember, Kennet Square is the mushroom capital of the world, producing over 60% of the country’s harvest.

And this fall, the Mushroom Festival takes place September 11-12 in downtown Kennett Square. The event was canceled in 2020. This year’s festival will be reduced in both size and duration. Prior to 2020, the September weekend festival attracted around 100,000 visitors to the community.

The mushroom industry continues to grow vigorously following the 2020 shutdown, despite a persistent labor shortage.

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