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Mid-Atlantic Mushroom Farmer

Carla Blackwell-McKinney

“Harvesting mushrooms is something that happens here every day, 365 days a year, even on Christmas, and from there they go to market.”

Carla Blackwell-McKinney
Mushroom Farmer

Name: Carla Blackwell-McKinney
Location: Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania
Years farming: I joined the family farm 11 years ago.
My family: My maiden name is Blackwell. The farm was originally started by my maternal grandfather (who had grown mushrooms years before) and my father, Clint Blackwell, in 1969. After my grandfather passed in 1973, Clint and my mother, Rosa Blackwell, assumed ownership. They operated the farm from 1973 until I joined them in 2000. My brother, Tyler Blackwell, also joined the farm part-time while attending college in 2000 and then started full-time in 2004.
How I came to be a farmer: After high school, I actually started out as a cosmetologist. A few years later, I decided to go to college and floated from one major to another. While there, I was invited to be a part of the family business and moved my major to general agriculture with a concentration in food marketing. I feel I made a wise choice that has been rewarding in so many ways.
The best thing about being a farmer: Working side by side with my family is rewarding, especially with my brother and best friend. But, I also enjoy working with Mother Nature, who is unpredictable and allows me to perpetually learn new things.
My personal philosophy on farming: Farming is utilizing the natural resources of the earth to provide people with a high-quality, safe food.

Mushroom Production in Pennsylvania and the United States
  • Ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms were the plant of immortality, decreeing that only royalty should consume them. Other civilizations throughout the world practiced mushroom rituals.
  • In the 1920s, Penn State became the first land-grant college to initiate a comprehensive mushroom research program.
  • In 1924, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture boasted that 85 percent of U.S. mushrooms were grown in Pennsylvania.
  • By 1930, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that there were 516 growers in the U.S. and that 350 were in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
  • Today, Pennsylvania farmers raise about 65 percent of all mushrooms grown in the United States.
  • It takes approximately 15 weeks to complete the mushroom production cycle.
  • Once mushrooms start growing, they double in size every 24 hours.
  • On average, Americans consume about four pounds of mushrooms each, per year.



For more information about mushroom farming in Pennsylvania, visit Fresh Mushrooms.

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