Last week began my tour of the buffet that is Pennsylvania Agriculture. What a tasty first course it was.
Mushrooms! Pennsylvania has approximately 66 Agaricus growers producing 65% of all of the U.S. mushrooms that get stuffed with crab, pesto, or pine nuts; sauteed with garlic and butter; baked on pizza; turned into burgers; and are eaten raw! Now aren’t you hungry?
I started my tour in Mushroom, PA. Well there isn’t really a place called Mushroom, PA but mushroom lovers know what I mean. Last week, I felt like a lucky little mushroom pin. I attended the 57th Annual Mushroom Short Course in Chester County, PA (home of Kennett Square, the Mushroom capitol of the world!) and my knowledge mushroomed as I absorbed all the information that was delivered. I learned about mushroom spawn, phase I and phase II composting, casing, and harvest issues. I am fortunate that the Mushroom Short Course was held less than a month after I arrived in the state. What an amazing way to learn about the industry.
The mushroom industry is a tight knit group of producers, composters, spawn producers, marketers, and mushroom researchers. I learned that they formed co-ops to produce compost and market their mushrooms. They have worked as a unit to build the things they need for the industry.
After the event, John Pecchia asked me if there was anything that surprised me about the meeting. I wasn’t prepared for the warm welcome I received from the industry. During the Sunday social time I found out about the history of the families that make up the industry. They told me about their traditions and I shared my Italian-American heritage with them. I felt at home almost immediately. During the meeting, many people offered me their cards and their ears if I needed to talk. Members of the group put together an amazing tour on the day after the meeting. I got to see the processes involved in mushroom production. The generosity and openness were a welcome surprise.
I look forward to working with this group.
When I was a kid I always called mushrooms ‘the garbage men of the wilderness.’ I revered their ability to turn trees into soil. Now I think of them as agriculture. It is amazing what one short course will do.