Pennsylvania mushroom farms face labor shortage

WEST GROVE, Pa. - 64 percent of America's mushrooms are grown in Pennsylvania, but, like many other people in agriculture, mushroom farmers are facing a growing labor shortage.

Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms in Chester County is an example.

They grow and ship 15 million pounds of mushrooms a year but they need workers.

"We currently do have a labor shortage," says Meghan Klotzbach, the company's Regulatory Manager.

In fact, she says they have 20% fewer workers than they'd like.

"Harvesting is all done by hand, it's a skilled position," says Owner Tim Hihn. "A good harvester averages 80 to 100 pounds per hour."

And that means good money; sometimes more than $18 and hour plus benefits.

So, why don't people do it?

"The general population is looking at agriculture as a dirty, hardworking job that they don't want to do," says Klotzbach.

The people who work here are mostly Mexican immigrants.

But that, too, is a problem.

"In the last few months we have seen our labor starting to drop off more, and we're fearing for the future," says Klotzbach.

A few weeks ago, ICE agents raided a farm near here, and arrested 12 people for being in the country illegally.

She says all of her workers have legal documents, but even some of them are leaving.

"We're seeing a lot of people going back to Mexico because they want to go home, they want to see their families, is what they've been telling us."

She says the solution to her problem is more legal immigration, or more Americans working for her instead of in an office.

"For some reason that's the way that our culture is moving towards," says Klotzbach, "and it's kind of scary because where does everybody think they're gonna get their food from?"


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Allentown, PA 18102




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