This week, we met with Tony and Jenalee on the farm to discuss mushroom production and the progress in the student garden.
What really fascinated me about the readings this week is that I actually grew up right by the mushroom production facilities in Southeast PA, and had no idea that it was this big. I just assumed that it was normal to have mushroom houses, and haven’t put any thought into it, until now: looking around and seeing their absence since moving to Pittsburgh.
Charles (2012) talked about the history behind mushroom production in Kennet Square and the history on how the Quakers enlisted the help of the Italians to perform the manual labor necessary to produce and harvest the mushrooms and how the Italians enlisted the help of Latinos to harvest the mushrooms as time went on. Growing up in Reading, I was used to a large portion of the population being Latino, but had no idea that mushroom harvesting was the reason these many people migrated and stayed in the area.
Mushroom production, in general, is something I never put much thought into anyway, though there seems to be a lot of potential for a more sustainable source of protein moving forward. Chen (1993) talks about how in Asian cultures, mushrooms take up 30% of everyday meals and how there are a lot of opportunities for cultivation. Instead of wasting so many resources on meat production, mushrooms can supplement the need for protein without a number of resources or animal cruelty.
As we saw in the workshop, mushrooms are easy to cultivate. They can grow indoors or outdoors out of a variety of materials. At Eden Hall, we use long bolts with shitake spores over the course of five years on pallets in order to produce a reliable stream of mushrooms. The best part of being grown indoors is that they can be grown year round with only brief intense harvesting sessions, but otherwise a minimal maintenance endeavor.
I started thinking about the chapter in Crowther (2015) which talks about how so many globalized foods around the world call into question how dependent we are on a select variety of foods and how fragile our biodiversity is. Like in Hitt (1996), even though supermarkets say that things are fresh, they really aren’t because they have to be packaged and shipped from far and wide. Customers end up buying less healthy foods while being distracted by the healthy foods. How hard could it be to start encouraging more people to consume mushrooms instead of eating so much meat, especially at the super market? Also, I wonder, in regards to Crowther (2015) how mushrooms are susceptible to disease when produced at such a large scale. Other than parasites like slugs, mentioned in the workshop, I don’t see fungus being consumed by other fungus, or I could be wrong. Though, with all these food products in supermarket susceptible to disease, are mushrooms less likely to be susceptible to disease, and if so, how would that affect the food supply moving forward?
Then, looking on the CATA website about workers’ rights in the mushroom industry, it seems to heavily influence the process and price for mushroom cultivation. I would like to see if there are other locations around the country that have similar productions going on. Even though 50% of all mushrooms produced come from Southeast PA, where do the rest of them come from? Also, I wasn’t sure if this is only talking about America in general or worldwide. If it is worldwide, I would consider that really impressive. However, this may not only be a good side stream of income for farmers in Western PA, but also other locations around the country. Can mushrooms be produced in colder climates, or warmer climates since the ground temperature stays about the same throughout the year?
Finally, we went to go see how the greenhouse was going along with Jenalee. There are a TON of tomatoes that need to be processed and distributed, and the drying grains have taken over the main greenhouse. It got me thinking about the article from Hitt (1996) and how even though produce is rarely “fresh” in supermarkets, would consumers really want fresh produce in abundance? It gets to the point that there is so much excess food that we don’t know what to do with it, or not enough that stays fresh for a long period of time. I guess everyone should have their own backyard garden, and this would solve a lot of problems.