Interview with Robert "Bear" Ferranto

Hagley ID:
  • Introduction
    Partial Transcript: So, we're recording. Today is February the nineteenth
  • Leaving and coming back to the mushroom business
    Partial Transcript: And, yes, before we started the recording you were about to go into a story about the mushroom industry
    Synopsis: Ferranto recalls how he decided to leave the mushroom industry and work for a metal forging plant after he couldn't sell mushrooms at Hunt's Point Cooperative Market in the Bronx, New York. He worked at the metal forging plant for 21 years before going back into the mushroom business with his wife at her Buona Foods company in 1988.
    Keywords: Buona Foods Inc.; Campbell's Soup Company; canned mushrooms; cannery; fresh market; Hunts Point Cooperative Market; Hunts Point, Bronx, NY; Lenape Forged Products, Corp.; Pennsylvania State University
  • Creation of the Mushroom Council / European mushroom composting
    Partial Transcript: We just had a competitor here go out of business
    Synopsis: Ferranto explains why and how the Mushroom Council was founded and how they're funded to do their work in mushroom promotion and research. He also speaks about newer processes in mushroom composting based off of European techniques.
    Keywords: automation; British Columbia; compost wharfs; fresh market; marketing mushrooms; mushroom co-op; mushroom compost; Mushroom Council; price increase; sales competition; supply and demand
  • Gale Ferranto coming to work for Buona Foods Inc. / labor force
    Partial Transcript: I never told you about her, I want to tell you about Gale.
    Synopsis: Ferranto shares the story of how his daughter, Gale, left her garment industry job to come work for the family business. He goes into talking about the labor involved in mushroom growing and the work force comprised of immigrants. He believes that the next generation of mushroom growers will be mostly Mexican.
    Keywords: Bella Mushroom Farms; Buona Foods Inc.; career change; child; fair wages; family business; garment industry; immigrant; immigration; international travel; labor competition; labor force; Mexican; Mushroom Council; North American Mushroom Conference; parent; paying taxes; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China; taxes; undocumented immigrant; work force
  • Forty years at the Pennsylvania Farm Show
    Partial Transcript: Did you grow up in a mushroom family
    Synopsis: Ferranto gives a brief overview of working as the main mushroom provider for the Pennsylvania Farm Show food court for forty years in a row. He reflects on the intense work and payoff that comes with the week of sales there and on some of the changes that he's seen there.
    Keywords: Bella Mushroom Farms; bird flu; blended burger; Buona Foods Inc.; cannery; child; family business; food sales; fundraising; Harrisburg Area Community College; marriage; mechanization; Mushroom Council; parent; Pennsylvania Farm Show; poultry; production cost; retail; small business; tradition
  • Peter Ferranto's trip to Italy / death of his wife
    Partial Transcript: The other thing that we were able to do and it's more difficult to do today
    Synopsis: Ferranto explains how he convinced his son, Peter, who runs Bella Mushroom Farms, to take his first vacation in twenty five years of working in the industry. He then shares about his own wife's passing to ALS.
    Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Bella Mushroom Farms; Buona Foods Inc.; customer relationships; death of a spouse; family dynamics; family relationships; Lou Gehrig's disease; marriage; widow
  • Sales contract with Giant Food Stores
    Partial Transcript: Well you told me about the decision you made to get out of mushrooms the first time in 1963.
    Synopsis: Ferranto discusses how Bella Mushroom Farms began and maintained their thirty year wholesale contract with Giant Food Stores, a chain which has grown considerably since the first contract. Bella Mushroom Farms sells at least a third of their product to Giant.
    Keywords: Aldi; Bella Mushroom Farms; Buona Foods Inc.; Food Lion; Giant Food Stores; grocery store relationship; produce sales; retail; wholesale
  • Immigration and changes in the industry
    Partial Transcript: Our biggest increase will be in the immigrant help area
    Synopsis: Ferranto lists several changes that he's witnessed working in the industry including the shifts in the work force. He touches on present day immigration reform policies as well. One of the other major developments in the industry, he noted, is the rapid technology and technique changes such as the discovery of peat moss to use as a casing layer and the mechanization of composting.
    Keywords: African American; automation; casing layer; compost; depletion of natural resources; harvesting; immigrant; immigration; immigration reform; labor force; mechanization; Mexican; mushroom spawn; peat moss; Puerto Rican; spawn; technological advancement; technology; Trump, Donald 1946-; work force
  • Buona Foods Inc. fresh mushroom processing / passing the family business onto the next generation
    Partial Transcript: You know, people eat with their eyes.
    Synopsis: Ferranto mentions some of the mushroom cleaning and processing machinery that they use to prepare their product for Giant Food Stores. Then talks about Gale and Peter passing the business down to one of Peter's sons - both of whom are attending Penn State for agricultural degrees.
    Keywords: Bella Mushroom Farms; Buona Foods Inc.; cleaning; family business; family farm; mushroom processing; peat moss; Penn State; Pennsylvania State University; pre-packaged food; processing; vacuum cooling
  • Ferranto's interpretation of the industry's history
    Partial Transcript: So if we could talk a little bit about your perspectives on the history of the mushroom industry
    Synopsis: Ferranto discusses his understanding of some of the timelines of developments in the industry, including Campbell's Soup Company and Clorox's roles in buying, growing and controlling the industry in the 1960s and 70s.
    Keywords: Boston, Massachusetts; business consolidation; Campbell's Soup Company; canned mushrooms; cannery; canning; Clorox; Ellis Island, NY; fresh market; Hunt's Point Cooperative Market; Hunt's Point, Bronx, NY; immigrant; immigration; Italian; Kennett Square, Pa; merger; parent; processed mushrooms; Quaker; set prices
  • International competition / business mergers
    Partial Transcript: The Dutch people took the order
    Synopsis: Ferranto talks about the increasing international pressures and competition from Holland and China especially to keep prices low and about some of the industry's business mergers done in order to compete.
    Keywords: Berks County, Pa; business merger; business operations; China; Chinese; Country Fresh; Dutch; Germany; Giorgio Foods; Holland; import; imports; international competition; mushroom packing; mushroom processing; mushroom sales; shipping; Taiwan; transportation
  • Giorgio Foods business merger / changing prices of mushrooms
    Partial Transcript: They have been advertising for compost people
    Synopsis: Ferranto refers back to the Giorgio Foods business merger and to the company's president to talk about the state of the industry now and then describes the shifts in mushroom pricing from when he began in the industry.
    Keywords: agaricus biosporus; American Mushroom Institute (AMI); business merger; composting; Country Fresh; family busines; family farm; Giorgio Foods; Hawaiian brown mushroom; mushroom compost; North American Mushroom Conference; white mushrooms
  • What hasn't changed in the industry / the Moore family
    Partial Transcript: So we've talked a lot about what's changed over the course of your life in mushrooms
    Synopsis: Ferranto speaks to how parts of the industry hasn't changed over the years, only that he himself has aged. He goes back to talk about working at Lenape Forged Products, Corp. and his interactions with members of the Moore family, who owned the company.
    Keywords: aging; Charles Moore; children; education; family business; family farm; Lenape Forged Products, Corp.; mechanization; parent; technology
  • Earliest mushroom related memory / favorite part about working in the industry
    Partial Transcript: Can you recall your earliest mushroom related memory
    Synopsis: Ferranto shares his earliest childhood memory of working with his father in a rented mushroom house that has since been demolished and is currently an assisted living facility. He talks about what he likes about being a small business owner in the mushroom industry as well; he values hard and honest work that he is proud of doing on a small scale when compared to the larger, cooperate farms.
    Keywords: Bella Mushroom Farms; Buona Foods Inc.; business competition; Campbell's Soup Company; canned mushrooms; cannery; child; childhood; Delaware Co-Op; family business; family farm; mushroom cannery; mushroom co-op; mushroom house; parent; processed food; processed mushrooms; professional relationships; rental property; sales competition; small business; Westover Hills, Wilmington, DE
  • Least favorite part of the industry / end of interview
    Partial Transcript: So what has been your least favorite part of the industry
    Synopsis: Ferranto ends the interview talking about the less enjoyable parts about working in the mushroom industry; he explains that he has different views and business values than some of the newer or immigrant-owned and operated farms.
    Keywords: back-haul; business management; business operations; employment; Giant Foods Stores; labor; poor business practices; Port of Wilmington; shipping; time management; transportation