Phillips Mushroom Farm Scientist and self-proclaimed “mushroom geek” Tina Ellor
picked me up at The Woodlands for a tour
of the growing houses. I could not have
had a better guide. The first house we
entered, a traditional two-story double,
was dark and dank, with soothing Spanish-sounding music drifting from the level
above. From long trays of dark compost,
millions of mushrooms sprung like popcorn. The trays were layered vertically on
shelves from ceiling to floor with aisles in
between. A few Hispanic men were tending
to the mushrooms, which, amazingly, can
double in size every 24 hours. I studied the
technique of one man, Jesus, who was deftly filling container after container.
At another larger building, we ventured
room to room, each with a different type of
specialty mushrooms. There were shitake,
oyster, maiitake, pom poms, and royal
trumpets, some growing from logs, some
growing from holes in black plastic bags,
all beautiful. Back at The Woodlands,
Linda and Jill sent me off with a beautiful
and generous assortment.
On my way home I visited Laurel Valley
Soils in Landenberg, just 15 minutes south
of Kennett Square. A wonderful business
has evolved here that remedies the need for
mushroom growers to dispose of their
spent compost. Supervisor Joe DiNorscia
graciously showed me around.
On the property here, the still-rich, used
compost is recycled for a raft of environ-
mentally friendly uses. Laurel Valley’s spe-
cialty is custom blending mixtures to the
exact specifications required for stormwa-
ter mitigation projects that help filter pol-
lution from rainwater. One product,
Rooflite is lightweight and perfect for
green roofs. In the end, that manure and
bedding ends up on green roofs around
the country, including the nation’s largest
green roof at the United States Coast
Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.
I hope to see it someday soon, but first it
was time to head home.
The last stop on The Poop Loop was my
desk at CBF’s Platinum LEED Philip Merrill
Center in Annapolis. I admire our own
green roof—also constructed with
Rooflite—every day as I walk in the front
door. Now, when I pass, I will think about
mushrooms and racehorses and, as always,
a clean Bay.
Loren Anne Barnett—CBF’s
Director of Creative Services
and Editor of Save the Bay
magazine—grew up on
Maryland’s Severn River.
(RACEHORSE) K. REGERT PHOTOGRAPHY,
(GREEN ROOF) UNITED STATES COAST GUARD
(OTHERS) LOREN ANNE BARNETT/CBF STAFF
1 Animal farms like Fair Hill Training
Center sell their manure and straw
bedding. 2 Composters turn the collected
waste into the perfect substrate on which to
grow mushrooms. 3 Mushroom growers like Phillips
add $2.7 billion annually to Chester County’s economy.
4 Soil companies like Laurel Valley recycle spent mush-
room compost for stormwater-reduction projects like this green
roof at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.