Interview with Tyler Blackwell and Carla McKinney

Hagley ID:
  • Introduction
    Partial Transcript: So, I'm going to make sure that this is recording upward
  • Growing up in the mushroom industry
    Partial Transcript: Today is January twenty first, twenty nineteen and I'm interviewing
    Synopsis: Blackwell and McKinney share some of their early childhood memories of growing up on the mushroom farm; they remember going to work with their father when they were very young to be able to spend time with him. McKinney talks about growing up around the laborer's families who lived on the property and having children who, at first, couldn't speak English, to play with.
    Keywords: "night check"; college; communication; early childhood; education; English as a second language; English speaker; family; family business; family farm; farm consolidation; financial crisis; grandparent; heating; Hockessin, Del.; home construction; HVAC; Laurel Valley Farms; mushroom house; small farm; Spanish language; Spanish speaker; Wilmington, Del.; working with a parent
  • Becoming interested in mushroom growing
    Partial Transcript: How did you decide to get into the world of mushrooms?
    Synopsis: McKinney shares her experience getting through higher education and discovering her passion for agricultural business like her brother Blackwell; both graduated from University of Delaware. Neither were pressured by their parents into going into mushroom farming, and also do not plan to pressure their children into it.
    Keywords: agricultural business; agriculture; children; CJ Mushroom Company; education; family; family business; family farm; family tradition; mushroom growing; parent; spawn sales; traditional; University of Delaware
  • Siblings running a business together
    Partial Transcript: So are there particular sorts of work that one of you gravitates to
    Synopsis: McKinney explains that her and her brother run different parts of the business with little overlap; she ran the office and financials part of CJ Mushrooms after becoming a mother and Blackwell runs the farming and field operations.
    Keywords: agriculture; business operations; family business; family farm; parent; partner; partnership; sibling; women in the mushroom industry
  • Changes in the way the farm functions / managing a high stress profession
    Partial Transcript: Either of you can feel free to answer this next one
    Synopsis: Blackwell and McKinney reflect on several aspects of the mushroom industry that have been increasingly more difficult to navigate since they began. Blackwell speaks to the amount of stress that the job of a mushroom farm owner comes with nowadays as compared to when his father started out in the business.
    Keywords: Affordable Care Act (ACA); business operation; children; cost increase; environmental protection laws; food safety; governmental regulations; labor; OSHA; parent; regulation; stress; stress management; worker protection
  • Packaging and distribution / mushroom organizations
    Partial Transcript: Do you package and sell your mushrooms on your own
    Synopsis: McKinney and Blackwell explain that the mushrooms from their farm are packaged and distributed by a third party. McKinney reflects on being the first woman to work in mushroom organization leadership with her time as a board member of the Mushroom Council. Both siblings talk about the roles of Penn State and the University of Delaware to the mushroom industry.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Institution (AMI); bioefficiency; CJ Mushroom Company; distribution; food safety; fresh market; Kenneth M. Lomax, PhD.; Laurel Valley Farms; marketing; mushroom compost; Mushroom Council; mushroom packaging; mushroom repacker; mushroom sales; OSHA; Penn State Short Course; Pennsylvania State University; Phillips Mushroom Farms; research; University of Delaware; USDA; women in leadership; worker protection
  • Changes in mushroom compost at Laurel Valley Farms / green roofing
    Partial Transcript: So could you tell me a little bit about your work at Laurel Valley
    Synopsis: Blackwell walks through the changes in the mushroom composting process and products at Laurel Valley Farms since the 1990s; one of the new side businesses for Laurel Valley is a green roofing business that utilizes spend mushroom substrate to use as landscaping materials for city green roofing projects.
    Keywords: compost wharf; green roofing; Laurel Valley Farms; mushroom co-op; mushroom compost; mushroom composting process; mushroom spawn; phase one compost; phase two compost; recycling compost; rooftop farming; spawn; spawning; spent mushroom substrate; top soil
  • Differences in immigration and workforces in the mushroom industry
    Partial Transcript: So this is a question that both of you can answer
    Synopsis: McKinney speaks to her understanding of the shifts in the national origins in the labor force; with Mexican immigrants still being a large majority of the workforce, she shares that there is a rise in Central American immigrants working in the mushroom houses as well. These immigrants also come in mostly speaking indigenous languages and are not as familiar with the Spanish language in her experience. They talk about the different ethnic groups who have worked in the industry as well as individual business practices.
    Keywords: business maintenance; business operation; Central America; communication; English language; ethnic group; human resource; immigration; indigenous languages; Italian; Kʼ icheʼ ; Kʼ icheʼ people; labor; labor force; Mayan languages; Mexican; Mexico; nationality; Quaker; Quiché ; Spanish language; work force
  • Mushroom community relationships / why the industry is located in Chester Country
    Partial Transcript: So what would you say the social aspect of the industry is like
    Synopsis: McKinney and Blackwell reflect on the changes within the social aspects of the industry since their grandfather worked growing mushrooms; they say that the same community relationships have changed greatly and neighbors aren't as willing to help one another out because of increasing sales competition. Together they also explain their understanding as to why the mushroom industry is still located in Chester County.
    Keywords: Chester County, Pa.; CJ Mushroom Farms; community; community outreach; community relationships; Landenberg, Pa.; Laurel Valley Co-Op; Laurel Valley Farms; neighbor; nostalgia; Toughkenamon, Pa.; white button mushrooms
  • Changes to the industry / influential family and organizations / end of interview
    Partial Transcript: To get into the nitty gritty of some of that
    Synopsis: Blackwell and McKinney reflect on some of the bigger changes in the industry's function including movements towards mechanization and renewable energies. They both declare that their parents have been the most influential to them in allowing them the space and learning curve to take on the family business and succeed as a second generation farm. McKinney and Blackwell end the interview by sharing their favorite and least favorite parts of the mushroom business.
    Keywords: agriculture; aluminum mushroom beds; automated harvesting; automation; business operation; European technology; family business; family dynamic; family farm; labor cost; labor shortages; mushroom beds; mushroom house; Pennsylvania State University; renewable energy; solar power; temperature control; wooden mushroom beds