Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Visit to a Mushroom Farm

Each time there is a Global Volunteers program we make a visit to the County Governor (Storosta -- hopefully spelled correctly in Polish) since the County of Siedlce is the official host for the Poland Global Volunteer program.

This time our meeting was with the Deputy Governor. I met him, too, when I was here in May. The May event included a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the partnership between the County of Siedlce and Global Volunteers. In May, when we met the Deputy Governor, he shared he was in a school where the first team of Global Volunteers taught English.

In this photo the Deputy Governor is the gentleman wearing the necktie in the second row where all are standing. I'm wearing the black top in the seated room holding onto, unfortunately, a pink cane I need to use to walk these days.

One volunteer, during the meeting, asked about the agricultural products grown in this area and every volunteer but me was surprised to learn that mushrooms are a very large and important crop in this area. I knew mushrooms were important, but I didn't realize how important until last year when I couldn't find a hotel room in Siedlce when I was planning to arrive and go with the campers to the Zakopane program. The hotels in Siedlce were full because of the National Mushroom Growers' Convention. This was the first and perhaps only time ever in the future I'll be bumped out of a hotel reservation by mushrooms.

When the topic of mushrooms emerged, we were asked if we would like to visit a mushroom farm and all agreed. Thus, Marek, the director of Reymontowka -- the gentleman standing at the far left of the standing row, arranged for us to visit a mushroom farm.

In 2004 when I first came to Reymontowka I visited a mushroom farm in nearby Cisie. That mushroom farm had 4 or 5 buildings, with mushrooms growing in different stages, from just planted to almost ready for harvest. When we got to the one we visited this year, my jaw dropped. This mushroom farm had perhaps 20 buildings -- I didn't have time to count, but it was a great many.

We entered through the office area and went by areas such as the cafeteria for the workers in this mushroom farm.

We then entered a long hallway that appears to connect with all the buildings on the farm. Near the door where we entered this hallway, but inside the hallway, were machines that recorded data about the conditions such as temperature and humidity in each of the buildings.

The gentleman who owns/manages  this farm, I'm uncertain of which is the right word, explained his family has been raising mushrooms for 38 years and he has been involved with raising mushrooms for 19 years.

Some of the smaller mushroom farms in this area shut down over the summer because the temperature becomes too warm to grow mushrooms, but these buildings are all climate controlled so mushrooms can be grown year around.

The photo above shows that there are multiple shelves of mushrooms in each building. The equipment in the center can be raised and lowered to give access to mushrooms at any level for care of the mushrooms or for the picking of the mushrooms. We learned that about 100 people work on this mushroom farm -- thus you can see it is a big operation. Some volunteers noted there were few cars parked around the farm at the time we visited, about 2:30 in the afternoon, so where were the workers? That is when we learned that particularly for picking mushrooms, workers do a night shift. However, I did not learn why picking mushrooms at night is better than picking mushrooms in the morning or the afternoon,

Below is a close-up of one of the mushroom trays.

The host for our tour reached over a picked a mushroom for each of us to taste. Some of my volunteer colleagues were nervous about going on this trip thinking there would be an unpleasant odor. However, to me the smell is like soil after a nice rain. It is not unpleasant at all. And I proved to be the only one brave enough to taste one of the mushrooms. 

In this area of Poland mushrooms are sold to markets all over Europe, but due to the eastern Poland location of this particular farm a primary market has been Russia. Last year, unfortunately, the political leaders of Russia -- for what I believe are political reasons connected with the Ukrainian problem --  placed an embargo on products such as mushrooms from Poland. I have now seen some television segments in the United States that show some markets in Russia are beginning to have empty shelves from the embargo of Polish produce which includes apples, raspberries, and currants as well.

I find the Polish farmers have been creative in finding new markets for their produce, and I'm very sorry that the average Russian is being harmed by the policies of the country's leaders.

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