Interview with John and Sara Cordivano

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  • History of John's Work and Family
    Partial Transcript: "In 1912 [my grandfather] built his own plant and started his own business in growing mushrooms..."
    Synopsis: Cordivano talks about his family's history into entering mushroom farming. He describes his grandfather's mushroom plant and the air conditioning unit he created in 1925. He then talks about himself in the mushroom business, working for the Cordviano Brothers, the Swayne Company, working in Maryland on a farm in Kent County, and the managing positions he held at Oxford Royal Company and at Laurel Valley Solis to his retirement in 2008.
    Keywords: Cordivano Bros.; Cordivano Brothers; family history; family involved in growing mushrooms; first air conditioning unit for mushrooms; John Swayne; Kent County, Maryland; mushrooming in Maryland; mushrooms in Maryland
  • Sara Working With Mushrooms, Family, Details Of John's Jobs
    Partial Transcript: "John Swayne...appreciated what you did for the company..."
    Synopsis: Sara Cordivano describes her short career working with mushrooms and handling the marketing for their personal mini mushroom farm that was converted from a milking barn.They describe their children's involvement with mushrooms. He then describes his position at Swayne's farm as a foreman over the picking crews and explains his promotion to composting after Clorox buys the Swayne company. He explains the duties of the jobs and what he learned there that was valuable to him. He leaves Swayne in 1978 and goes to Oxford Royal. He describes what it was like working for Laurel Valley Soils in compost and fixing their issues. He talks about the improvement of their compost with the new system: creating more products and efficiency. He talks about the expansion of custom compost makers and why some growers preferred a customized compost rather than the standard.
    Keywords: composting; family in mushroom growing; issues in creating compost; John Swayne; Laurel Valley Solis; Pennsylvania University mushroom researchers; picking crew foreman; Swayne's Mushrooms
  • The Composting Process Old vs New and Giving Credit To The Dutch In Automated Farming
    Partial Transcript: "It's fascinating, but it's smelly..."
    Synopsis: He talks about the history of Pennsylvania compost, what it takes to make a compost blend, and what used to happen when his grandfather would make compost and what happens today with what they know and the technology that they have. He goes step by step when describing the new automated systems and the struggles that occurred when doing it the traditional way without machinery. He explains how the Dutch were the motivators in the automated compost system and talks about the Basciani Brothers and their mushroom bed machines and what they do. He also mentions the struggles of what happens when a farm is understaffed.
    Keywords: automated compost; automated farming; automated mushroom farming; Basciani Bros.; Basciani Brothers; compost blend; compost process; dutch farming; history of Pennsylvania compost; making compost; mechanical farming; Pennsylvania compost; raw compost; temperature controlled systems; the dutch
  • Remembering Stories About Workers From Various Farms. Immigrant Raid Stories.
    Partial Transcript: "Oh my gosh were they good workers, and good people..."
    Synopsis: He describes the workers (some immigrant and some not) he met while working at Swayne's farm and some others and their success stories. He talks about the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 had upon him and his workers, he includes some immigrant raid stories and the struggles he and the workers faced.
    Keywords: immigrant mushroom raids; immigrant raids; immigrant worker stories; immigrant workers; Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986; President Reagan; worker stories
  • Family Tree: How His Parents Met Through Mushrooms
    Partial Transcript: "My mother and her family came [from a tobacco harvesting area] and my grandfather grew tobacco for a year or so...on my other grandpop's property... [and that's how my mother and father met]..."
    Synopsis: He talks about how his parents met during a time when tobacco farmers temporarily migrated up north to harvest mushrooms when tobacco was out of season. He talks about his family's history, those who were involved in mushrooms and how he occasionally runs into distant family members in the area.
    Keywords: family in the mushroom industry; family tree
  • Interactions Among Different Ethnicities In The Mushroom Industry, Family In The Mushroom Industry, Concerns Of The Extinction Of Small Farms, Temporarily Working For Chrysler (1965 - 1970)
    Partial Transcript: "There was some social things that didn't suit some of the Quakers [between Italians]..."
    Synopsis: He talks about the racial discrimination of Italians and the religious differences between groups. He talks about how every mushroom farm functioned differently. He also talks about one of the plants a family member of his owned how if they were no longer needed for the rest of the day, they would do recreational past times for the remainder of the day. He talks about his concerns for the small farms going into extinction due to not getting into marketing their own products. Then mentions about working for a Chrysler for five years before returning to mushrooms.
    Keywords: different groups in mushroom industry; family working in mushrooms; marketing in mushrooms; minority groups working in mushrooms; small mushroom farms
  • Working With Mushrooms, Talking Of Income, Favorite Job, Creating Compost Formula
    Partial Transcript: "[What I find rewarding when working with compost/mushrooms is] I just like the challenge of it...just about the time you think you learned something you learn that there's a lot more that you don't know..."
    Synopsis: He explains why he like working with compost and how he is constantly learning. Sara talks about the consistency and inconsistency of their income when John would work different compost jobs. He describes his favorite job at Oxford Royal and the issue he had to solve while there. He describes how one comes up with the correct formula for compost, how that process goes, and the various ingredients that is needed.
    Keywords: creating compost formula; income with mushroom compost; income with mushroom farming; mushroom schools
  • Changes In Mushroom Industry, Pennsylvania State Involvement And Growing Of Exotics
    Partial Transcript: "The biggest changes that occurred-- some back in the fifties..."
    Synopsis: He then talks about the changes that happened in the mushroom industry from the 1950s and compares it to the traditional handmade compost his father would make and the impact of the Dutch's system that we use today. He talks about Pennsylvania State University's involvement in mushroom production overall, the eventual lessening of their involvement, but how their production of exotics has grown. They discuss where the experts come from for the mushroom school that was once held by Penn State, but transferred to the Dutch. Cordivano talks about publications that are important to him and his ideas of compost and growing mushrooms. He also talks about an automated plant that used robots harvesters.
    Keywords: changes in agriculture; changes in compost; changes in mushroom industry; Penn State; Penn State mushroom school; Pennsylvania State University; Pennsylvania State University mushroom school; traditional versus modern compost
  • Consulting In Ecuador And Venezuela, The International Mushroom Market And Mushroom Recipes
    Partial Transcript: "I got a call from John Swayne, and John said to me 'I got a call from this guy in South America, in Ecuador and he has a mushroom farm down there and needs some technical help. Would you be willing to go down?'"...
    Synopsis: He talks about when he consulted in Ecuador in the 1990s and in Venezuela. He describes the farms and how they came to exist, along with how he helped the farmers/growers. He explains his process when he consults and what he would do to help solve the issues. He then talks about the international aspect of mushroom farms and how they market differently outside the USA. They both discuss about what they learned while traveling to these places and the differences between then and now in purchasing mushrooms. They have some closing conversation about eating mushrooms and recipes they have passed down over the years.
    Keywords: mushroom consultant; mushroom farming in South America; mushroom in the international market; mushroom recipes