“The explosion in the last 15 to 20 years is dramatic,” he said.
Schroeder said he’s grown shiitakes since 1982 and has watched them grow from “a single row of one size” to a robust category.
At first, most mushrooms were sold to canneries, Donovan said.
The industry switched to fresh and added more varieties due, in part, to competition from foreign canned mushrooms.
The availability and distribution of fresh, wild mushrooms also has grown exponentially, Salvo said.
“We’re all doing a much better job at post-harvest handling, getting the product in, handled, cleaned and graded and getting it to the chefs who want it year-round,” he said.
Breathable films on the packages and other innovations have helped extend shelf life, he said.
Technology also enables growers to control the light while mushrooms are growing and add vitamin D.
Despite all the advances, Fred Recchiuti, general manager of Basciani Mushroom Farms, Avondale, Pa., is concerned about the future of the industry.
“We’re wondering where the next generation of mushroom growers is going to come from,” he said.
“There’s a big lack of interest in college these days for the mushroom industry.”
Today’s generation of students doesn’t want to go to college and then come out and grow mushrooms, he said.
That’s not an issue for Basciani, though, which has 16 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren coming up in the business.
“We’re poised to meet our customers’ mushroom needs far into the future,” he said.