Interview with Dominic Manfredini

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  • Manfredini's family background
    Partial Transcript: So this is an oral history interview with Dominic Manfredini
    Synopsis: Manfredini explains how his family immigrated from Italy to the United States; his father immigrated in 1910 and ended up as a coal miner in a small town near DeMoines, Iowa. After traveling back to Italy in 1930 to marry Manfredini's mother with the intent of bringing her back to Iowa with him, her citizenship paperwork was denied which caused Manfredini and his mother to have to stay behind in Italy until 1936 when the two of them immigrated together.
    Keywords: citizenship; coalmines; DeMoines, Iowa; family life; immigration; Italy; New York
  • Manfredini's childhood memories of Italy
    Partial Transcript: Do you have any strong memories from growing up at this time?
    Synopsis: Manfredini remembers growing up in Italy under the rule of Benito Mussolini as a young child and participating in Mussolini's youth program named Opera Nazionale Balilla. He talks about how his grandfather was the town's constable and took him to see charcoal making in the woods near their home.
    Keywords: Benito Mussolini; childhood; fascism; Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB)
  • Manfredini's immigration journey / beginning in the mushroom industry
    Partial Transcript: We left Italy in...
    Synopsis: Manfredini describes some of his immigration journey to Waukee, Iowa and beginning life in an American school as a young child who hadn't yet learned to speak English. His family soon followed their friends to Pennsylvania who were involved in the mushroom business; it took Manfredini two years before he was able to buy his own land and build his own mushroom houses. The Second World War hit the business hard, but they were able to recover financially and add more mushroom houses to their property.
    Keywords: agriculture; childhood; coal miners; coalmines; construction; culture shock; education; English as a second language; family business; immigration; mushroom growers; mushroom house; New York; Pennsylvania; Waukee, Iowa; World War II; WWII
  • Living in a mushroom house / Italians in the mushroom business after World War II
    Partial Transcript: So you lived in an apartment above the mushroom house. Can you describe it?
    Synopsis: Manfredini describes the apartment that he lived in with his family that was connected to his father's mushroom house. He continues to speak to how, after World War II, Italians dominated the mushroom industry and the overproduction problem at the time.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Institute (AMI); apartment; cannery; childhood; fresh market; Italian; living space; mushroom growers; mushroom house; overproduction; supply and demand
  • The early years of the family mushroom farm
    Partial Transcript: Your family, um, when you built those first two mushroom houses in '46
    Synopsis: Manfredini reflects on the roles that each family member played in the mushroom growing and sales process; him and his father picked them while his mother packed them. At the time, they only grew white mushrooms which were mostly sold to canneries, Campbell's Soup Company was also a major buyer. Manfredini also remembers the first vehicle the family ever owned which was a 1948 International KB 5 truck which they used as the family and business truck.
    Keywords: 1948 International KB 5; Campbell Soup Company; childhood; construction; family business; mushroom growers; mushroom house; mushroom packing; mushroom picking; mushroom solicitors; transportation; white mushrooms; wholesale; women's work
  • Mushroom composting
    Partial Transcript: Were you guys mixing your own compost?
    Synopsis: Manfredini explains the components of mushroom compost and some of how the process and ingredients have changed since the early 1950s.
    Keywords: compost materials; compost mixing; hand-mixing; house manure; mushroom composting; mushroom industry suppliers
  • Selling mushrooms / community labor
    Partial Transcript: Can you describe what it was like in those first two doubles
    Synopsis: Manfredini speaks to how and where mushrooms were sold throughout the industry; Campbell's Soup Company, as a major buyer, would usually set the price for mushrooms daily and other smaller companies would follow suit and pay the same amount that Campbell's would per basket. He also explains how some of the community and neighbor labor forces worked as it was common to both help your neighbor at their house if they needed it, or borrow and pay some of one's hired labor if needed as well.
    Keywords: Campbell's Soup Company; cannery; childhood; community; education; fungicide; Italian families; labor force; mushroom cleaning; mushroom grower; mushroom growing chemicals; mushroom growing process; mushroom picking; mushroom spawn; paid labor; spawning
  • American Mushroom Institute actions over tariffs / extensions of the family farm
    Partial Transcript: So it sounds like your family was
    Synopsis: Manfredini mentions a trip he took along with other members of the American Mushroom Institute to the Capitol to speak to senators over the issue of mushroom importation tariffs. He continues to describe the growth of the family's mushroom business after he graduated from high school and the other farming properties they owned; they began to grow corn and hay in the summer for mushroom composting and his father also raised beef cattle.
    Keywords: agricultural policy; American Mushroom Institute (AMI); beef cattle farming; family business; family dynamic; family farming; farming; mushroom growers; mushroom house; mushroom importation; mushroom picking; politics; seasonal farming; sibling; tariffs; Washington D.C.
  • Manfredini's sister's marriage and living situation / the creation of Keystone and Lambert Spawn
    Partial Transcript: Around the 60's, a friend of mine, Lucho Pizzini, his brother
    Synopsis: Before becoming a grower, Manfredini and his friend Lucho Pizzini went into business together cleaning and filling mushroom houses. He shares about how he lived with two large families in the same house, and married one of the families daughters. Then Manfredini explains the creation of both Keystone Mushrooms and Lambert Spawn.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Company; Cherryhill, Maryland; Christiana, Delaware; coalminers; coalmines; company consolidation; Concordville, Pennsylvania; conveyor business; Coxsackie, New York; family business; family dynamic; Keystone Mushrooms; Lambert Spawn Company; marriage; mushroom plants; mushroom spawn; small business owner
  • European farming technology
    Partial Transcript: During that time we had our ups and downs.
    Synopsis: Manfredini talks about how he loves to travel back home to Italy as often as he can, and has used European, especially Italian, technological advancements in farming as an impetus to do so. Italian farmers have developed more advanced machinery and composting techniques than North American mushroom farmers have access to, which has led Manfredini to get involved with the European farming companies to disseminate their technologies.
    Keywords: bean sprouts; brussel sprouts; composting wharfs; Europe; farming machinery; farming technology; international; Italian mushroom industry; Italy; Keystone Mushrooms; Lambert Spawn Company; produce farming; small business owner; technological improvements; travel; tunnel composting
  • Mechanical tray growing process
    Partial Transcript: We mentioned about the [xxx] operation, which was a tray operation
    Synopsis: Manfredini explains one of the more mechanized growing processes and machinery called "tray style". This process involved using plastic trays instead of traditional mushroom beds along with conveyors to move and fill the trays/
    Keywords: casing; mushroom growing; mushroom growing machinery; mushroom growing technology; mushroom house; peat moss; spawn; spawning; tray growing; Wilmington Cannery
  • Adding peat moss to the growing process
    Partial Transcript: Do you know how they got started growing in Coxsakie, New York?
    Synopsis: As one of the innovators of adding peat moss to the growing process as an effective casing layer, Manfredini recalls traveling up to Canada to collect moss and slowly incorporating it into the casing soil and then choosing to use the moss by itself as the casing layer. He also recounts how some of the limestone caves in New York that were used by other companies as their temperature - regulating mushroom growing sites were also used as atomic bomb shelters during the Cold War.
    Keywords: atomic scare; bomb shelter; Canada; casing; cave growing; Cold War; Coxsakie, New York; Keystone Mushrooms; Lambert Spawn; mushroom growers supply company; mushroom growing process; mushroom house; nuclear warfare; peat moss; soil quality
  • Issues with mushroom compost / Pennsylvania State University's contributions to the mushroom industry
    Partial Transcript: Compost has become, over the years, a real problem
    Synopsis: Manfredini speaks to some of Pennsylvania State University's Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology contributions to the mushroom industry under the leadership of Dr. Leon Kneebone. Some of these improvements to the industry included new ways to handle mushroom composting, an aspect of growing that started to be more heavily regulated because of pollution concerns, as well as Dr. Kneebone's "Short Course" on mushroom growing science that was openly offered every year.
    Keywords: chemical runoff; compost disposal; education; environmental protection laws; issues within mushroom farming; Leon Kneebone, Ph.D.; mushroom compost; Penn State Mushroom Short Course; Pennsylvania State University; Pennsylvania State University Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology; production; recycling compost; soil pollution
  • Managing the Keystone Mushrooms and Lambert Spawn companies
    Partial Transcript: I wanted to go back and ask you quickly about the moment you described where
    Synopsis: Manfredini lists aspects of the business operation side of Keystone Mushrooms and Lambert Spawn; he talks about the various kinds of jobs and employees that they had working for them which included everything from office managers to those who only watered the mushroom beds.
    Keywords: composting wharf; Kaolin Mushroom Farms; Keystone Mushrooms; labor force; Lambert Spawn; marketing; mushroom growing; mushroom house; mushroom packing; mushroom picking; peat moss casing; small business owner; spawn labs
  • The Keystone Mushroom Cannery
    Partial Transcript: And were you also canning mushrooms?
    Synopsis: Manfredini explains how he bought a cannery from American Mushroom Inc. because the original Keystone Mushroom and Lambert Spawn sales contract; it included a gradual escalation of price clause on the company's contractual mushroom sales to American Mushroom Inc. that eventually was too much for them to pay, forcing them to sell the cannery to Keystone. Manfredini sold the cannery in 1975 due to a growing concern for botulism in canned mushrooms.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Inc.; botulism; canneries; canning mushrooms; Keystone Mushroom Company; mushroom cannery; small business owner; Wilmington, Delaware
  • Selling Keystone Mushroom Company and Lambert Spawn
    Partial Transcript: So we sold the can business and then I started up the
    Synopsis: Manfredini explains how he sold Lambert Spawn first in 1980, and then followed 3 years later with selling Keystone Mushrooms to an outside company that fired him less than a year later. After leaving Keystone Mushrooms, Manfredini returned to the canning business.
    Keywords: "toll pipe"; Avondale, Pennsylvania; buying and selling mushrooms; cannery; canning; Keystone Mushroom Company; Lambert Spawn; loss of job; packing mushrooms; packing room; small business owner
  • Transitioning out of owning Keystone Mushrooms
    Partial Transcript: What, um, I'm curious about that sort of transition between sort of being in charge
    Synopsis: Manfredini goes into more detail about selling Keystone Mushrooms and leaving the company. He recalls that the business only lasted more two years after he left the job before the new owners declared bankruptcy.
    Keywords: bankruptcy; Keystone Mushroom Company; leaving a job; loss of a job; selling a business; small business owner; transition; transitional role
  • Selling Manfredini Enterprises
    Partial Transcript: I'm curious to hear from you a little more about
    Synopsis: Manfredini expresses the hope he had that one of his children, either his son Dominic or daughter Elizabeth, would have wanted to continue the business in agriculture and mushrooms, but after neither one was interested in it, Manfredini sold his final business in the industry, the cannery named Manfredini Enterprises in 2010.
    Keywords: Avondale, Pennsylvania; button mushrooms; buying and selling mushrooms; Campbell's Soup Company; cannery; canning; family business; family farm; fresh market; Manfredini Enterprises; marketing; Oxford, Pennsylvania; retirement; sales contract; selling a business; small business owner; soup mushrooms
  • Navigating the mushroom sales market
    Partial Transcript: If you don't mind, I just want to ask you a few more questions about
    Synopsis: Manfredini speaks about his later business of buying and reselling varieties of mushrooms and running his own canning company. He enjoyed the sales aspects of the job and used several of his personal connections, especially though Penn State University, to find and expand his sales market.
    Keywords: brown mushrooms; canneries; Manfredini Enterprises; mushroom canning; mushroom sales; office; office building; owning property; packing mushrooms; packing room; Pennsylvania State University; white mushrooms
  • The creation of the American Mushroom Cooperative
    Partial Transcript: Things that were going on in the sort of buying and selling world
    Synopsis: Manfredini mentions the creation of the American Mushroom Cooperative which was an association made to promote economic prosperity within the mushroom growing community. It was created in response to an on-going legal battle between large grocery chains and mushroom growers over details in the 1922 agricultural Capper--Volstead Act.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Cooperative; Capper– Volstead Act (P.L. 67-146); lawsuit; Manfredini Enterprises; mushroom growers
  • Antitrust acts and the mushroom industry
    Partial Transcript: I think it was the '80s when the price of mushrooms just fell apart
    Synopsis: Manfredini reflects on the antitrust laws and lawsuits that have effected mushroom growers and the prices that they can sell their products for to supermarkets. He finds these laws to have been harmful to the industry.
    Keywords: "Supply Control" Campaign; American Mushroom Cooperative; antitrust laws; botulism; business consolidation; buying and selling mushrooms; Capper– Volstead Act (P.L. 67-146); Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative; monopoly; set-pricing; Sherman Antitrust Act; supply and demand; Tunney Act
  • Manfredini and the American Mushroom Institute
    Partial Transcript: It sounds like the American Mushroom Institute has been
    Synopsis: Manfredini, a member of the American Mushroom Institute since its inception, lists some of the beneficial things that AMI has done for the grower's community; they're responsible for creating the original demand for mushrooms and for other events like protesting mushroom importation on Capitol Hill.
    Keywords: American Mushroom Institute (AMI); artificial demand; community; media promotion; mushroom growers; mushroom imports; Phillips Mushrooms; Silvan; tarrifs; technological advancement; The Mushroom Council; Washington D.C.
  • Passing on Frank Manfredini & Son in 1966
    Partial Transcript: Go ahead.
    Synopsis: Manfredini explains that before he went to work in New York with Keystone Mushrooms and Lambert Spawn, he passed his father's nine house mushroom business to his brother-in-law, Lucho Pizzini in 1966. Pizzini ran the business until 1980 before shutting down for sometime and opening once again for the last 10 years of his life; Pizzini passed away in the early 2000's.
    Keywords: changing ownership; D Manfredini & L R Pizzini; death of a family member; family business; Frank Manfredini & Son; Lucho Pizzini; Lucho Pizzini & Son; mushroom houses; New York
  • Growing up with mushrooms
    Partial Transcript: Mushrooms are clearly this important part of your family history
    Synopsis: Manfredini speaks to some of his earlier childhood and young adult memories that include mushrooms; he remembers working in and around the houses as a teen and remembers a time he had to sleep in his office in New York because he was snowed in during a storm. He also mentions some of the community and neighborly relationships between mushroom growers.
    Keywords: childhood; community; cooking; early-childhood; family farm; farming; hospitality; Italian traditions; Keystone Mushroom Company; Lambert Spawn; manual labor; mushroom picking
  • Marriage / family relationships
    Partial Transcript: When did you get married?
    Synopsis: Manfredini explains how he married his wife much later than most people got married, he was 42 years old and lived with his parents in their mushroom house apartment until that time. They adopted two children, Dominic and Elizabeth. He recalls the variation of speaking both English and Italian at home and within the community, though comments that at work most of them spoke English with one another because they didn't understand each other's different accents in Italian.
    Keywords: adoption; creating a family; English as a second language; English language; family dynamic; family home; family life; Italian language; marriage; mushroom house
  • Technological advancements in the mushroom industry
    Partial Transcript: I was wondering if you could say a little bit about what you think are the biggest
    Synopsis: Manfredini claims that the single biggest shift and advancement within the mushroom growing industry is technology as a whole. Technology allows for growers to control and manipulate all aspects of the growing process; farms are now significantly bigger and are able to mass produce all year round much more efficiently. He does claim that peat moss is the single most important addition to the growing process, as it is still part of the process today. He is saddened to say that while this had grown the industry, it has brought an end to small-time family growers and the community aspects of the industry that he valued when he was in the business.
    Keywords: community; composting; cooperations; genetic modification; HVAC; labor force; manual labor; mass production; mushroom house; peat moss casing; shifts within the mushroom industry; small business; spawn; spawn labs; technological advancement; technology; temperature control; tunnel composting
  • End of interview
    Partial Transcript: What, what do you love most about mushrooms
    Synopsis: Manfredini ends the interview by sharing some stories of some of the most difficult moments that have come with being a mushroom grower and business owner; he recalls trying to get to work and transport a truckload of mushrooms to market during snow storms that involved dedication and overcoming personal challenges.
    Keywords: community; competition; family business; family farm; Fulton, New York; Keystone Mushroom Company; mushroom growing; profit; transportation