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Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA, told The Produce News that the company will be exhibiting at the annual Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit on Oct. 26-28 in Anaheim, CA.

white8ozBG“We’ll be at booth number 4127, and we’ll be showing our new vitamin D enhanced Portabella mushrooms in the six-ounce sliced and six-ounce caps,” said Mr. Donovan. “This is a new product for us, and we are excited to introduce it to the trade.

Phillips Mushroom Farms is near completion of its Warwick, MD, mushroom growing facility expansion.

“It will be completed by December or January,” said Mr. Donovan, “and it will enable us to double our production there to 200,000 pounds per week. The facility was built only two years ago, so this expansion really speaks to the growing demand for mushrooms.”

Each room in the new high-tech facility is climate controlled by computers, and each growing room is harvested multiple times a day, 24-hours a day.

“Our mushrooms are harvested at their optimum size,” said Mr. Donovan. “Pasteurized, uniformly inoculated substrate is loaded into specially designed, sanitized trucks for transport to the facility. A uniform substrate creates ideal growing conditions throughout the 10,000-square-foot growing room.”

The three and a half-acre facility is under one roof. It is Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices-certified, and 20 percent more energy efficient.

Mr. Donovan concurs with others in the mushroom industry that the cost of the bi-products used for the growing medium has jumped due to shortages caused by the nation’s drought.

“We use cotton seed because of the high cost of other materials, but prices on it are also going up,” he said. “The price of mushrooms is going up as we speak.”

Phillips Mushroom Farms feels that the Mushroom Council’s “Swapability” initiative is a great campaign.

“The Council is looking to get the campaign into school programs, which is an outstanding idea when you think about the childhood obesity problem in the country. That will also rub off onto parents who will think about picking up a package of mushrooms when they buy a package of ground beef or ground turkey. Given the nutritional benefits and lower calories, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

He said that labor is an ongoing problem for mushroom growers.

“We use laborers every seven days a week, year round,” he said. “At times of the year labor gets tight because people move on to other seasonal opportunities for periods of time.”

Food safety and traceability is also a huge undertaking and cost, but Mr. Donovan said that Phillips Mushroom Farms stays at the cutting edge of certifications because it is an imperative today.

He also believes that organics will continue to grow, and says that demand has started to pick up pace again following the worst of the recession.

“Locally grown is still a factor, but as most mushrooms come from Pennsylvania, we’re not as affected by it as are other produce items,” said Mr. Donovan. “We are getting some inquiries about sustainability, which we think will also grow in importance.”

“Mushroom demand just continues to grow and grow,” he continued. “It’s kind of amazing, but the customer who is eating healthier and is more interested in trying new and different foods, is definitely a mushroom customer, and that customer does not let the economy dictate what they’re going to eat.”