Did You Know Pennsylvania is home to largest grower of specialty mushrooms in U.S.?
September is National Mushroom Month, and Kennett Square, Pa., is known as the Mushroom Capital of the World. Pennsylvania produces 68 percent of the nation’s 946 million pounds of mushrooms — with almost 400 million pounds coming from the Kennett Square area alone in 2015.
Located in Kennett Square, Pa., Phillips Mushroom Farms was founded in 1962 and was the first commercial grower in the U.S. to grow Shiitake mushrooms year-round for the fresh market.
This month, we spoke to a long-time veteran of the mushroom business to find out what it’s like to work at a company that’s not only an expert at growing and selling one of the state’s most unusual agricultural commodities, but at doing business in Pennsylvania as well.
When — and how — did Phillips Mushroom Farms get its start?
Kennett Square is the self-proclaimed ‘Mushroom Capital of the World’ because the largest number of mushroom growers in the United States are located within a 20-mile radius of the town. The mushroom industry was started here in 1896 by a carnation grower’s son utilizing the space under his father’s carnation beds to grow mushrooms.
In 1926, William W. Phillips began growing mushrooms in Kennett Square. In 1962, sons Don and Marshall started Phillips Mushroom Farms. In addition to growing, they also packaged and distributed not only their own mushrooms, but those being grown by small, family-owned farms in the area. They were one of the first to go direct to the market, bypassing the broker and delivering mushrooms to chain store warehouses. In September 2010, Phillips purchased Farmers Mill Mushrooms in Lower Oxford Township, Chester County, and at the same time signed an agreement with Hillcrest Mushrooms Farms in New Garden Township to lease its farm. In 2014, it leased an additional farm from Pratola Bros., Inc. These three additions increased Phillips’ growing area by 360,000 square feet.
What types of mushrooms does Phillips sell, and where do you sell them?
Phillips grows and sells seven different types of mushrooms: White Button, Crimini, Portabella, Shiitake, Oyster, Maitake and Royal Trumpet®. We sell them to multi-unit restaurant operators and food manufacturers.
Did Phillips Mushroom Farms participate in the Mushroom Festival in Kennett earlier this month (September)? If so, how?
We’ve participated in every Mushroom Festival since its inception. We, along with most farms, donate mushrooms to be sold. All of the proceeds are donated to local charities. Last year, the festival committee gave $80,000 to those local charities, and since 2002, the figure is $803,000.
What’s the best part about working and living in PA?
The best things about Pennsylvania are the changing seasons, and here in Kennett Square, the diversity and friendliness of the residents, the rolling hills, and open space. I especially like that the leading industry in PA is agriculture, and mushrooms are the largest vegetable cash crop.
Is there any other interesting information that you’d like to share with our readers?
In 2012, The Woodlands at Phillips opened in a restored 1828 farmhouse, which the Phillips family purchased in 1890, to showcase Phillips products. Today, much like the place of old, The Woodlands sells fresh, processed, frozen, and dried mushrooms and mushroom products, along with a host of mushroom-themed items. In addition, the mushroom exhibit was added two years ago, where mushrooms are brought from the growing rooms to display for the general public to see. Posters explaining the different varieties and their unique medicinal benefits line the walls. There is a host of videos explaining the growing process, along with cooking tips.
Royal Trumpet Growing Room
Happy Harvest: Mushroom Ragout with Fettuccine
In celebration of National Mushroom Month, we’re sharing our recipe of a delicious Mushroom Ragout through a cooking demonstration by Governor’s Residence Executive Chef Barry Crumlich.
Find out what other crops are leading the way in Pennsylvania.
Jim Angelucci is General Manager of Phillips Mushroom Farms. In his 43rd year at the farm, Jim is seasoned in all things Pennsylvania business and mushrooms.