Kaolin Mushroom Farms
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Kaolin Mushroom Farms, Inc. is a fourth-generation family farm that began growing mushrooms in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1925. The company's headquarters is now at 649 West South Street in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Shortly after John Pia, the current owner’s grandfather, immigrated from Italy to the United States, he began growing tomatoes as a sharecropper for the Campbell Soup Company until a friend convinced him to try his hand at growing mushrooms. His son, Louis Pia, started working in the business in 1940, and in 1950 he began to formulate a new type of mushroom growing substrate (the composted food base for the crop) that had been developed at Pennsylvania State University. It was so successful that other local growers asked him to formulate some for them and this soon became their main revenue source.
Louis incorporated Kaolin Mushroom Farms, Inc. in 1962 and from that time until 1982, the company’s primary business was the commercial composting of mushroom-growing substrate although it continued to grow mushrooms.
In the late 1970s Louis’ two sons, Michael and John, began to work full-time in the family business. In 1982 the Pia family switched its focus from composting back to mushroom growing when they purchased the largest mushroom farm in Chester County from a subsidiary of the Clorox Company. Michael and John assumed ownership and control of the company in 1984.
The company continued to grow through acquisitions and expansions and today it is the largest mushroom producer in Chester County and the 4th largest in the US. Kaolin has 800 full-time employees of which approximately 80% originate from Mexico. It operates three mushroom farms, a state-of-the-art composting facility, and other related operations, and sells over 1 million pounds of mushrooms every week, primarily throughout the eastern half of the US, to various retail, wholesale, foodservice and process customers.
Kaolin has distribution centers in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, and New Orleans. These facilities give the company a local presence in those markets and allow it to effectively compete with growers who are much closer to those areas.
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