Mushrooms need special compost on
which to grow. Two key ingredients are
horse and chicken manure and straw.
Composters buy these as used bedding
from poultry and horse farms some of
which are inside the watershed. I visited
one such supplier: Elkton, Maryland’s 350-
acre Fair Hill Training Center, about 20
miles south of Kennett Square in the upper
eastern corner of Maryland.
Fair Hill’s mission is “to maximize perform-
ance and soundness of the equine athlete.”
Big-time horses like Animal Kingdom,
Barbaro, and Union Rags have been stalled
here in the 17 privately owned barns.
Organized as a condo association, they are
sought after by horse enthusiasts like
Olympic gold medalist and new owner Bode
Miller. Owners and trainers like the location,
central to tracks like Laurel Park in
Maryland, Charles Town Races in West
Virginia, and Penn National in Pennsylvania.
And, the facilities enjoy a sterling reputation.
The barns, the tracks, the trails, and the sur-
rounding 5,656-acre Natural Resources Area
are picturesque. Also on site are state-of-the-
art veterinarian and therapy centers. This is
Disneyland for racehorses. When I pointed
this out, Manager Sally Goswell replied, “A
happy horse is going to run better.”
It is no wonder that Fair Hill draws 700
horses in the summer and 300 horses year
round. It also follows that Sally would have
an unending supply of manure and straw
bedding. Lucky for Fair Hill, composters
are willing to pay good money for it.
The collected stable bedding is composted
to remove any human pathogens and
mixed with just the right combination of
other agricultural by-products—corn cobs,
poultry manure, and cocoa bean shells—to
make a mushroom happy.
I would witness mushroom magic in the
morning, but first I drove north to Kennett
Square for some dinner. I hadn’t seen so
much as a gas station since that morning
when I exited 95 onto the area’s enchanting
and winding rural roads.
I was hungry, and online raves of Talula’s
Table had caught my eye. This critically
acclaimed farm-to-table market serves a ten-course tasting experience for those willing to
wait one year for a reservation. Fortunately
for me, their gourmet food market is open
daily from seven to seven. I made it just in
time for a nice-sized slab of mushroom bread
pudding. How appropriate.
I settled in at a table in the front window
with a great view of downtown Kennett
Square’s West State Street. It was cozy and
quiet, and I savored every bite of my meal.
Just before closing, several boisterous couples came through the front door with
large coolers in tow (Talula’s is BYOB). I
made a note to rally some friends for this
experience next year.
On a quiet street a few blocks away, slumber awaited at a charming Queen Anne-style bed and breakfast. The founder of the
area’s mushroom farming industry, J.
Bancroft Swayne, built Bancroft Manor in
1909. I plan to return to enjoy some of
Kennett Square’s other great offerings: many
gardens and museums and, especially, the
Mushroom Festival held every September.
The next day, I visited sisters Linda Phillips
Steller and Jill Phillips Gray, part of the
third generation in the Phillips Mushroom
Farm family. The Woodlands at Phillips, an
inviting shop and museum they run
together, was once the home of their
grandparents. The retail store sells several
varieties of farm-fresh mushrooms and
more mushroom-related gifts than you
knew existed. And, local chefs regularly
host cooking demonstrations in the beautifully appointed kitchen. At the separate
museum building, a video and other visual
displays capture the past and present of
Kennett Square’s mushroom industry,
which now supplies over half the mushrooms consumed in the U.S.
William W. Phillips started a small mushroom business in Kennett Square in 1927
and helped perfect some of the early technologies that allowed mushrooms to be
grown year round. Sons Donald and
Marshall have increased production and
marketing and expanded Phillips to include
shitake and other specialty mushrooms.
; POPULATION (2013 Census): 509,468 (Kennett Square 6,129). Chester
County has the highest median household income in the state at $86,050.
The Woodlands at Phillips www.thewoodlandsatphillips.com
1020 Kaolin Roaoad, Kennett Square 19348 610/444-2192
Talula’s Table www.talulastable.com
102 West State Street, Kennett Square 610/444-8255
Bancroft Manor www.bancroftmanor.com
318 Marshall Street, Kennett Square 610/470-4297
The Mushroom Festival (September 10-11, 2016) www.mushroomfestival.org
Downtown Kennett Square 610/925-3373
Laurel Valley Soils/Skyland USA www.laurelvalleysoils.com
705 Penn Green Road, Landenberg 866/LV-SOILS
Chester County Visitors Bureau www.brandywinevalley.com
300 Greenwood Road, Kennett Square 484/770-8550
Historic Kennett Square www.historickennettsquare.com
106 West State Street, Kennett Square 610/444-8188
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CHESAPEAKE BAY WATERSHED