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The student field trips at Longwood Gardens have been cut back from once a week to once a month, which is a pretty big disappointment. But this week was good because it was the field trip week! haha. We actually spent the morning being judges for a local community fair. I helped with the section ‘Adult Specimen Flowers’. Then after lunch we all went to visit one of the local farms in the Kennett Square area, Philips Mushroom Farm.

water tower

Kennett Square is more or less formally known as the mushroom capital of the world. And Philips has a lot to do with why that is. They are the largest grower/distributor of gourmet mushrooms in the United States. So living in the area and not yet seeing a mushroom farm is probably pretty bad. I guess its a good thing they took us all around. It’s also very neat that we were able to see such an large and influential growers’ facility.

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We first started with a tour of their composting distributor; Laurel Valley Soils.

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It was a HUGE operation. I’d seen composting facilities before and they all pretty much operate in a similar manner. The rows and turning machinery were even closely related to Longwood’s composting operation. However, the scale of the product itself was impressive.Philips Mushroom Farm 10-01-09 (17)

Then it was off to see the mushroom growing facilities. I was rather embarrassed to discover that I’d many times seen the buildings used for mushroom growing and had no idea that’s what they were for.  They aren’t anything special to look at but now I know if I see a building with concrete blocks, outer duct work and no windows that I’m probably seeing mushroom houses. Ha!

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We were allowed to eat some raw, which I did. Well, I tried one. I can’t say I was jumping in for more. I like mushrooms cooked a lot better than raw. Plus i like the large Portabella mushrooms. These were Portabella’s but they were being grown for a smaller product.

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To go into the facilities we were all required to wear hairnets. The facilities were broken up into different rooms and were filled with rows and rows of organic matter and mushrooms.

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At another facility, mushrooms were grown in individual growing mediums, but were laid out in the same way; rows on rows. I found it pretty amazing how much product could be grown in the  spaces. I believe the mushrooms in the photos above and below are shitakes.

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The last facility we visited had the mushroom that I liked the most. Not necessary to taste (I didn’t try that kind) but because of how beautiful they looked!

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The growing mediums looked quiet simple although I’m sure the nutrients content was quiet complex. They had it wrapped with large plastic pieces and cut slits in the plastic. This is where the fungi could grow through.

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Each medium tower was on a palette so they could easily move them around. It was challenging to walk around them though because the mushrooms are very fragile and if any part of you hit them, they would crumble off.

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Overall I really enjoyed myself. It was very eye-opening to see these various processes for growing mushrooms at such a state of the art mushroom facility.

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Mischief in the Mushrooms? (The key here is to look innocent :D)

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