PA Ag Secretary Highlights Chester County’s Mushroom Industry on Food Fuels PA Tour

food that fuelsFrom left; Rachel Roberts, president of the American Mushroom Institute; Gary Smith, president of the Chester County Economic Development Council; Tony DAmico, co-owner of To-Jo Mushrooms, inc.; Senator Carolyn Comitta; Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding; Joe DAmico, co-owner of To-Jo Mushrooms, Inc.; and Mandy Book, Acting Deputy Secretary of Business Finance & Workforce Development (DCED)

WEST GROVE, PA – On Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Department of Community and Economic Development Acting Deputy Secretary Mandy Book stopped at Chester County’s To-Jo Mushrooms, Inc., on the Food Fuels Pennsylvania tour. The company’s West Grove processing facility demonstrates how Pennsylvania’s $746 million mushroom industry powers jobs and innovation and fuels our state economy.

“The growers of this region are what make the ‘Mushroom Capital of the World’ the perfect place to highlight how Food Fuels Pennsylvania,” said Secretary Redding. “Food brings people together and fuels both our bodies and our livelihoods, thanks to innovative farmers and food manufacturers who feed the commonwealth and the world.”

Pennsylvania’s mushroom industry leads the nation in production, with nearly 60% of all mushroom production occurring in southeast Pennsylvania and nearly two-thirds of all mushrooms harvested in the U.S. are harvested in Chester County. The industry supports more than 9,300 jobs and contributes $1.2 billion to the economy.

“Agriculture continues to be an essential part of industry in Pennsylvania with food manufacturers like To-Jo Mushrooms helping to fuel our economy and create jobs,” said Mandy Book, DCED Acting Deputy Secretary.

Pennsylvania agriculture is a $132.5 billion industry that supports nearly 53,000 farms and more than 593,000 jobs each year. Food manufacturing is one of the largest sectors of the commonwealth’s agriculture industry, supporting 140,000 jobs and contributing $22.4 billion to the state’s economy annually.

Pennsylvania has faced an agricultural workforce shortage that at one point estimated a deficit of 75,000 workers as farmers retire and new technology-based positions become available. In recognition of workforce needs and agriculture’s importance to the economy, the Wolf Administration partnered with Team Pennsylvania to analyze economic trends and workforce needs. The 2021 Economic Impact of Agriculture in Pennsylvania report defines the commonwealth’s unique agricultural landscape, quantified economics and workforce impacts.

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“The mushroom industry’s economic ecosystem is like its growing ecosystem—complex, interwoven, and highly sophisticated,” said Rachel Roberts, president of the American Mushroom Institute. “Compost is formulated specifically for mushrooms to grow in. Harvesters train for months to identify and select mushrooms from the growing beds to match the buyer’s specs.  Haulers get a mushroom harvested today on the shelf anywhere in the United States in one to three days. Large and small machine operators operate systems from frontloaders to mushroom packing lines. Controlled environment technicians make sure a mushroom house feels like a temperate forest home for mushrooms all year round. The beauty of all this effort is a delicious product unlike any other that can be added to breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to add essential nutrients and flavor.”

“AgConnect has had the opportunity to partner with our agriculture businesses to provide workforce training programs for the past decade,” said Gary W. Smith, President of the Chester County Economic Development Council. “Notably, AgConnect, in partnership with the American Mushroom Institute and the PA Department of Labor and Industry, has provided training for hundreds of employees on dozens of our Berks and Chester County mushroom farms in the areas of workplace safety, lock out tag out, CPR and AED training, and supervisor leadership training. These trainings have provided valuable opportunities for workers.”

To-Jo, a PA Preferred® member, is a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated grower-shipper of fresh and prepared mushrooms for both the foodservice and retail industries. PA Preferred is the statewide promotional program helping consumers recognize locally grown products and offering marketing opportunities to growers. The PA Preferred symbol assures consumers that what they are buying is produced in Pennsylvania by Pennsylvanians.

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“Agriculture is a leading industry in Pennsylvania and here in Chester County, our mushroom industry is world-class,” said State Senator Carolyn Comitta. “I want to thank Secretary Redding and To-Jo Mushrooms for highlighting and promoting mushrooms as fresh, nutritious, locally grown food products that fuel our economy and our workforce. And I look forward to working with the Department of Agriculture and partners like the American Mushroom Institute to support continued growth, innovation, and success in the mushroom industry.”

Since 2019, the PA Farm Bill has invested more than $7 million in the PA Preferred program to grow support of the overall program, bolster enrollment in the Homegrown by Heroes program, and create opportunities in organic agriculture. These investments help qualified businesses of all sizes compete in the marketplace and connect with consumers.

Find more info online at papreferred.com.

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