Labor Shortages or “Lack of Vision”: Examining How the Mushroom Industry’s Perception of Risk Impacts Prevention

Authors: Samantha Speck*, University of Delaware
Topics: Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Risk perception, reflexivity, globalization, immigration
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Studio 10, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Kennett Square, located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, is the self-declared “Mushroom Capital of the World.” More than half of all U.S. mushrooms are produced in Pennsylvania, making it the largest cash crop in the commonwealth. Despite this success, the local industry has substantial risks; the number of growers is dwindling, the raw materials needed for compost are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, and continuing labor shortages could force many out of business. The farms, many of which are family owned, are making difficult entrepreneurial decisions based on the risks that they have identified. How does their perception of these risks impact strategies for prevention and mitigation? This study is aimed toward understanding the risk perceptions of the Chester County mushroom community as well as the broader U.S.-based industry. I examine the perceived risks, how the industry reflects on those risks, and the resulting strategies for preventing risk in an increasingly globalizing industry. Data was collected through twenty-seven semi-structured interviews with members of the Chester County mushroom community, as well as a survey of members of the broader U.S.-based mushroom industry. Preliminary results suggest that while some perceive labor shortages resulting from failed immigration policy as the greatest risk to the industry, others believe that the true risk emanates from the industry’s lack of vision and technological investment.

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