In praise of mushrooms and their growers

The success of the 27th annual Mushroom Festival this past weekend affirms again the value of the industry to southern Chester County.

More than 100 years ago Italian workers who grew roses in and around the area started growing mushroom in the spaced underneath the rose beds during cool weather. According to legend they used the manure and straw from the local horse farms to produce the perfect compost, and out of those humble beginnings came the largest cash crop in Pennsylvania.

We offer appreciation to the farmers past and present as well as the contributions they have made to the local communities for the following reasons.

First and foremost, these men and women are hard working and provide a good model of the rewards of industriousness. The crop doesn't stop growing overnight or on holidays. There isn't a day that goes by that they don't have to attend to the demands of this fussy crop. They are up every day and every night of the year to produce the mushrooms that come to our tables.

The industry also produces a vegetable that is treasured by gourmet cooks and yet is economical enough to sell in hard times to dress up a meal. It is said that when the nation goes through difficult times, people buy mushroom either in place of meat or to cook alongside to save the price of more expensive cuts of meat.

And it's not just the product that deserves accolades.

Fortunately for southern Chester County, many of the owners have been responsible contributors to the community. They support Little League teams, sponsor cultural events and join service organizations to help the boroughs and townships grow.

The method of growing is a great example of recycling. It uses hay and straw from chickens and horses, and when the growing is done, the spent compost is a super nutritious addition to gardens.

Additionally, southern Chester County has enjoyed the prosperity that comes from industries and jobs that come from serving the mushroom industry. Among them are the growing services, spawn sales, machine manufacturing and product storage.

Outside the region, chefs worldwide have been inspired by the humble mushroom to create dishes that are consumed at the most elegant banquets. It is such a versatile crop that it can be used in soups, salads, main dishes and even some desserts.

With that said, we also praise the growers who are in the forefront of controlling runoff from plants and making sure odors are under control. The industry has come a long way since day laborers fluffed piles of manure and hay outside with pitch forks,

Scientists have increased production and have learned to contain the odors from the production process. For anyone who has visited a modern mushroom plant, they will see a process that is clean and efficient.

For all these reasons, and for the glorious celebration that the past weekend just held, we thank the industry and its people.

May we enjoy many more mushroom festival that live up to the quality of this year's event.

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