Interview with John B. Swayne III

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  • Swanye's Family Getting Into Mushrooms
    Partial Transcript: "...somewhere along the line he saw all this space under the growing beds and decided on mushrooms."
    Synopsis: John Swayne III talks about the "mythology" of how his great-grandfather acquired the interest for growing mushrooms. He describes what brick spawn is, and it's differences between then and now in transportation. He then talks about his great-grandfather building their first mushroom house, then he talks about his family tree and history. He also explains that his father was the first to package mushrooms in glass containers and the importance of it. He talks about Pennsylvania State's invention of grain spawn and the importance of hard grain for growing spawn. He talks about his family's connections to growers in Colorado.
    Keywords: brick spawn; hard grain; millet; millet grain; mushroom; mushroom brick spawn; mushroom farms; mushroom spawn; Pennsylvania State University; spawn
  • Brick/Grain Spawn Process, Types of Growing Methods/Houses
    Partial Transcript:
    Synopsis: Swayne discusses the ideal temperature for spawn, the shipping process and how one creates spawn. He talks about the different types of mushroom growing facilities (houses and tray facilities), the origins of tray growing and how it made its way to the states. He also talks about the materials and dimensions of traditional mushroom houses and why they are built on the side of a hill.
    Keywords: brick spawn; Europe; growing mushrooms by tray; growing temperature for grain spawn; mushroom houses; mushroom shipping process; mushroom trays; tray plant; tray planting
  • The Family Business, Working For The Government (1961 - 1964), Returning Back To The Family Business And Expanding It
    Partial Transcript: My father sold the business...
    Synopsis: Swayne talks about his fascination with his father's business and wanting to work for him at a young age, his father allows him to work temporarily when he's sixteen in the canning plant. He then talks about graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1961 and then being enlisted into army intelligence in Baltimore, Maryland for three years, leaving in 1964. He talks about his assignment in Pasadena, California where he performed background investigations and describes what it was like working there and why he eventually left to return to the family business. He talks about his father wanting to sell the business and telling his son that he can work at the business but not own it. His father sells the business and Swayne is promoted to be in charge of all three operations at the time.
    Keywords: B and B Mushrooms; B& B Mushrooms; Baltimore, Maryland; family business; West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Moving To The United Kingdom To Help With Mushroom Plants, Clorox Becoming Involved In Mushrooms, Buying the Company Back
    Partial Transcript: Most of the problems in mushrooms growing have to do with not good compost everyone wants to buy cheap horse manure...
    Synopsis: He talks about Country Kitchen Foods buying from him and the lack of experience the United Kingdom had in growing mushrooms. He moved to the UK and stayed for four years helping them solve their problems in farming. He talks about Clorox's interested and how they became involved in mushrooms, what it was like working for them, the eventual selling of the companies both in the UK and the United States, and Swanye's interest in buying it back from them circa 1970. He also talks about the risks he knew when owning the business when his father owned it.
    Keywords: Clorox
  • Family Involvement In Mushrooms, Shift Between Big And Small Companies And Immigrant Workers, Affiliated Institutions
    Partial Transcript: "The little guys go out of business and the big guys get bigger..."
    Synopsis: He talks about his family and how his son once worked for him in the mushroom business, but had no interest for it. He also talks about other family members working there over time and explains why he thinks it can be detrimental to the company when family owns it.He talks about the relationship with his father and then moves on to how big and small companies expand. He also talks about the impact of immigrant workers and some of the challenges they face when hiring them. He talks about affiliated institutions and how they contribute to other mushroom growers.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Institute; family in farming; family working in mushrooms; Immigrant Mushroom Workers; Immigrant Workers; Pennsylvania State University
  • Growers As A Community
    Partial Transcript: "The big guys, like myself, didn't really associate with the smaller growers..."
    Synopsis: He talks about how the smaller growers would get together and discuss their problems with one another to seek advice, meanwhile Swayne and bigger growers would hire consultants like from Pennsylvania State. He then talks about what he majored in while at the University and his family's relation with the school. Then he talks about marketing his products, and where he'd do business (in Colorado and the West Coast), working with grocery chains. He talks about the difficulties with marketing and the importance of building relationships with others.He then talks about the labor force in while in the United Kingdom and the differences in that, including the majority being women harvesters. Talks about maintaining spawn in the UK, the difficulties running a big business and the competitiveness while running the business both in the State and the UK.
    Keywords: growing mushrooms in the United Kingdom; marketing mushrooms
  • Working in Spawn Company And Marketing, The Future For Mushrooms And Family Photos
    Partial Transcript: I went to the Annual Mushroom Conference every year...
    Synopsis: He explains how his spawn company operates and the average size of a company like his. He talks about the Annual Mushroom Conference and selling in the West Coast. He then talks about the future for mushroom farming. He describes pictures from his family, a collage of the original spawn plant and a picture depicting all four generations of mushroom farming.
    Keywords: Annual Mushroom Conference; Automated Mushroom Farming; working in a spawn company