NEW GARDEN — Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding returned to Southern Chester County for a roundtable discussion and facility tour at To-Jo Mushrooms on Wednesday.
Pennsylvania’s mushroom industry leads the nation in production, as previously reported, supporting nearly 10,000 jobs and contributing $1.2 billion to the economy.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Christina Sappey, D-158th of West Bradford, joined Russel for the event along with local stakeholders of the mushroom industry from To-Jo Mushrooms and JD Mushrooms.
In attendance for the roundtable were members of the JD Mushrooms family including John D’Amico, owner, and his sons, John Jr. D’Amico and Mario D’Amico.
A worker at To-Jo Mushrooms in New Garden Township on Wednesday. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)
To-Jo Mushrooms executive leadership who partook in the roundtable, hosted at the company’s headquarters on Penn Green Road, included Chief Executive Officer Tony D’Amico, Vice President Joseph D’Amico Jr., Chief Operating Officer Bernie Ciuffetelli and Kevin Delaney, vice president of sales and marketing, among others.
Those present discussed a range of issues impacting the mushroom industry today.
In the Greater Philadelphia Region, gasoline increased by more than 40 percent in February compared to a year ago. Fuel is one key factor in rising costs for mushroom farm owners, however there are other challenges the industry is concurrently facing.
“As an industry, we have incurred significant cost increases up and down the supply chain from packaging, labor, fuel, and raw growing materials like peat moss and compost,” said Delaney.
During the roundtable discussion, Redding encouraged folks there to apply for state grant funding to help the industry develop solutions to overcome current challenges.
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joins state Rep. Christina Sappey, D-158th of West Bradford, after the tour of To-Jo Mushrooms with owners, and brothers, Tony D’Amico and Joseph D’Amico Jr. on Wednesday in New Garden Township. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)
Redding also discussed housing, research, training and workforce development.
Two years ago, during the initial shutdown of non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania, the mushroom industry never stopped working.
Yet following the aftermath of this global crisis that changed so many lives in the Commonwealth, beginning now 25 months ago, the mushroom industry is facing unprecedented increases in operational and logistical costs, plus ongoing labor shortages as well as difficult challenges in the supply chain such as a lack of locally sourced peat moss.
To-Jo Mushrooms is a fourth-generation farming enterprise, founded in 1932.
“We’re proud of our heritage as farmers here in Pennsylvania,” said Tony D’Amico.
To-Jo has multiple growing, packaging and shipping locations in Southern Chester County. The company employs nearly 500 people.
Pennsylvania’s mushroom industry leads the nation in production. The industry supports more than 9,300 jobs and contributes $1.2 billion to the economy. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)
Nearly 70 percent of all mushrooms harvested in America are sourced at farms in Chester County.
Just last month, Redding visited a To-Jo farm production site in West Marlborough during his Food Fuels Pennsylvania tour across the Commonwealth.
“The growers of this region are what make the ‘Mushroom Capital of the World’ the perfect place to highlight how Food Fuels Pennsylvania,” Redding said.
Redding said Pennsylvania’s $746 million mushroom industry powers jobs and innovation and fuels the state economy.
After the roundtable, Redding and Sappey joined To-Jo leaders for a tour of the site’s packing facility.
Noteworthy, the employee break room — spacious, spotless and community-driven — features a large statue of the Virgin Mary. Many mushroom workers hail from South American descent, where Catholicism is the leading religion.
To-Jo owner Tony D’Amico, from left, state Rep. Christina Sappey, D-158th of West Bradford, To-Jo owner Joseph D’Amico Jr. and Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding take a mushroom tour in New Garden Township, just shy of Avondale, on Wednesday. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)
After departing from To-Jo’s headquarters on Penn Green Road in New Garden Township, just shy of Avondale Borough, Redding visited the New Bolton Center, School of Veterinary Medicine in East Marlborough Township and Octoraro Native Plant Nursery in Kirkwood, Lancaster County.
“A day spent in Chester and Lancaster,” Redding later wrote on Facebook, “is always a good day. Workforce is at the forefront of the collective mind here at the department. What is the future of agriculture? PA’s producers are engaged and answer that question every day.”
He continued, “Pennsylvania agriculture has a lot to offer. Learning and experiences matter.”