Interview with Donald and Artie Needham

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  • Introduction
    Partial Transcript: It started, we're recording.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords:
  • Needham introduction to mushroom growing
    Partial Transcript: Okay, I'm Donald Needham.
    Synopsis: D. Needham gives a brief life overview of how both he and his children became involved in growing mushrooms. His father moved from the South as a laborer in the industry, and after his sudden death at the age of 46, D. Needham worked with his mother to grow mushrooms. He got his children involved in the industry from a young age, and both of his sons are still involved in aspects of the industry.
    Keywords: air conditioning; Chatham, Pa.; death; Fastrack Express Trucking Inc; father; HVAC; Hy-Tech Mushroom Compost Inc; migration; military service; money management; mother; mushroom grower; Needham Mushroom Farms; parent; purchasing a farm; raising children; seasonal crop; unexpected death; United States Army; West Grove, Pa.
  • A. Needham's involvement in mushrooms / first mushroom memories / starting to grow mushrooms
    Partial Transcript: Well, I've been involved in it all my life
    Synopsis: D. and A. Needham together share their first memories of working with mushrooms and their initial start in the industry. A. Needham provides a brief biographical sketch at the start of the segment which outlines his current role in the industry as well.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Institute (AMI); brown mushroom; business expansion; Charles Brosius; compost sales; education; harvest; manual labor; mentor; mushroom compost; mushroom grower; mushroom house; social group; turning compost; Yeatman family
  • Community centered industry / mushroom growing in the "Far East"
    Partial Transcript: Sounds like there is a lot of comradery within the industry
    Synopsis: A. and D. Needham speak to the culture and community between mushroom growers before delving into the difficulties that the industry has experienced over the years, mostly in the 1980s. D. Needham talks about the United States' involvement in spreading the mushroom industry to parts of Asia as a part of post-war reparations and US Aide.
    Keywords: "backyard operation"; "Far East"; Asia; building a farm; canned mushroom; challenges; community; community relationships; financial crisis; help; helping neighbors; industry relationships; international community; international competition; market; mushoom co-op; mushroom market; post-war economy; selling a farm; supply and demand; surplus; technological advancements; technology; trade secrets; work relationships
  • Canning mushrooms / changing markets
    Partial Transcript: Along come eighty seven and here we are
    Synopsis: D. Needham talks about the supply and demand for mushrooms in the canned and fresh market and how the general demand changed from processed to fresh mushrooms, especially after an industry-wide outbreak of botulism. A. Needham explains the types of mushrooms grown at the farm, and how the original type of mushroom they grew was a "cream" mushroom, which is neither white or brown.
    Keywords: "cream" mushroom; agaricus biosporus; botulism; buying a farm; Cambridge, Md.; Campbell's Soup Company; cannery; canning; canning industry; canning mushrooms; family farm; food-borne illness; fresh mushrooms; illness; Kennett Square, Pa.; mushroom co-op; mushroom farm; mushroom sales; pasteurize; production; profit margin; quality control; soup mushroom; spawn; sterilization; supply and demand; surplus
  • Trade organizations
    Partial Transcript: Have you participated or been involved with any other professional organizations
    Synopsis: The Needhams talk about their relationships to and roles within mushroom trade organizations. D. Needham has been a consistent attendee of the Penn State Mushroom short course since 1958 and both of them have been involved with the AMI and the Kennett Square mushroom festival.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Institute (AMI); Kennett Mushroom Festival; Kennett Square, Pa.; leadership; Lion's Club; market changes; Penn State Short Course; Penn State University; Pennsylvania Farm Bureau; Pennsylvania Farm Show; Pennsylvania State University
  • Community relationships
    Partial Transcript: Can you talk about your relationship with your neighbors
    Synopsis: A. Needham speaks about the farm's longstanding relationship with the surrounding community, especially in terms of health and safety. The smell of the mushroom compost concerned new neighbors moving into the area who were not familiar with it which caused large health investigations by the CDC, with the epicenter of the investigation being the Needham's property.
    Keywords: Aerobic conditioning; anaerobic conditioning; Bell Telephone Company; Center for Disease Control (CDC); community relationship; compost wharf; composting; Europe; health; health study; Holland; human resources; mechanization; neighbor; new technology; real estate; safety; technological advancement
  • Health concerns in the community
    Partial Transcript: Well what do you do to reduce the odor
    Synopsis: A. Needham talks about how the EPA used their farm and compost wharf as an example for a tour with the federal secretary of the EPA because of their good standing with the agency. He continues to speak about the health concerns and how a lack of understanding about the growing process and components by medical professionals has added to concerns about mushroom farms within the community.
    Keywords: aerobic; allergy; anaerobic conditioning; community leaders; compost; compost process; compost smell; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); health concern; health inspection; inspection; medical professional; new homes; real estate; safety concern; safety inspection
  • Changes in growing cycles / Chester County as the mushroom epicenter
    Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about the health regulations that you need to have
    Synopsis: The Needhams reflect in the changes in the growing cycles and practices from the time that D. Needham started in the industry to present day when A. Needham has continued in the business. Together they also discuss why southern Chester County became and stayed the mushroom capitol.
    Keywords: changes in growing practices; Chester County, Pa.; contractor; crop cycle; farming chemicals; food safety; growing cycle; health code; health regulations; infrastructure; Kennett Square, Pa.; labor; labor pool; Lipstick Mold; mushroom diseases; pesticides; poultry industry; transportation
  • Changes in the labor force
    Partial Transcript: So did I hear you say that your father originally came from the south
    Synopsis: D. Needham discusses the major changes in the labor force within the industry. He begins with the southern migrant laborers which included his father, and then mentions the differences between the Puerto Rican and Mexican populations as employees.
    Keywords: African American; changes in labor force; effective communication; employee; immigration; labor force; language difference; Mexican; migration; mushroom farming; Puerto Rican; Spanish language; work ethic
  • Changes in the industry over time
    Partial Transcript: Um, how else has the industry changed over time?
    Synopsis: Mainly D. Needham shares his experiences and difficulties as a small time mushroom grower in his youth and the rapid demand to expand that the industry undertook. A. Needham references the international mushroom community and how Europe has impacted the industry.
    Keywords: business expansion; England; Europe; farm expansion; Finland; increase in production; industry growth; labor; mechanization; mushroom growing; Netherlands; peat moss; production; production growth; production materials; profit margin; supply and demand; technological advancements; technology
  • International relationships / Needham's family businesses
    Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit more about, like, your international relationships
    Synopsis: A. Needham goes more into depth about some of the industry's international relationships and some personal ones he has with the international composting community. He also talks about the extent of the family business; his brother runs a trucking company that specializes in moving and selling spent mushroom compost.
    Keywords: automated harvesting; automation; compost; England; Europe; Fastrack Express Trucking Inc; Holland; mushroom community; mushroom composters; Netherlands; processed mushrooms; technological advancement
  • What hasn't changed in the industry / best parts of the industry
    Partial Transcript: So we've talked about the ways things have changed
    Synopsis: D. and A. Needham reflect on the seemingly few constants in the industry over the two generations of mushroom growers. A. Needham talks about the possibility of passing the farm on to his son like D. Needham did for him; he also remarks on enjoying the challenge and possibility for success that comes with running a small business in agriculture.
    Keywords: advertisement; American Mushroom Institute (AMI); business expansion; business management; challenges; changes in the industry; children; digital age; family business; labor; law making; lobbying; Mushroom Council; operations manager; parent; product promotion; production; supply and demand; Tom Chapman
  • What D. Needham likes most about the industry / industry development
    Partial Transcript: What do you like the most about the industry
    Synopsis: D. Needham shares his thoughts on what he has enjoyed during his time in the industry, which includes the rapid growth and expansion of the industry even into other countries. He talks about those international relationships, like those with Holland, and how he and his son have shared those with other large mushroom growing families like the Phillips.
    Keywords: agricultural permit; agriculture; business expansion; compost wharf; Europe; family farm; farm expansion; generational knowledge; Holland; industry development; international travel; Maryland; mushroom house; Phillips Family; profit margin; sharing knowledge; supply and demand; technological advancements; turning compost
  • Difficulties within the industry / immigration law
    Partial Transcript: Speaking of, I guess, of technology as we were talking about
    Synopsis: A. Needham explains the Amnesty immigration reform laws of the 1980s under President Reagan. He reflects on how helpful he found the laws were to the labor situation within the industry and how they functioned. He makes a call for similar laws or reforms to be made in the present day to address the immigration debate within the United States.
    Keywords: amnesty; business expansion; compost; compost bale; documented immigrants; employees; employer; farm expansion; Hydroline; immigration law; immigration reform; labor; labor force; Mexico; production cost; profit margin; Reagan, Ronald 1911-2004; right to work; small business; spawning; technological advancements; technology; undocumented immigrants
  • Mushroom documents from D. Needham / end of interview
    Partial Transcript: So is there anything that I haven't asked either of you that you think
    Synopsis: D. and A. Needham end their interview by going through a folder of documentation on the industry that D. Needham brought along. The collection includes pamphlets and articles for and about the recent history of the mushroom industry.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Institute (AMI); canned mushrooms; canning; composting; Dr. Leon Kneebone; economic disaster; economy; family farm; family land; growing cycle; Kennett Mushroom Festival; mushroom compost; Penn State Short Course; processed mushrooms; profit margin; work ethic