Skip to main content

Chester County Press

Editorial: A dialogue, many years in the making

12/13/2016 12:13PM ● By Richard Gaw
Last Wednesday evening, London Grove Township supervisor Dave Connors made a suggestion at the board meeting that, if implemented, may go a long way to tighten communications between two of southern Chester County's top growing factions: the mushroom industry and the residents.
Connors only spoke for a minute or two, and his thoughts offered no particulars. In short, it had all of the adhesive of a spitball idea, but we think it is a brilliant one.
The Chester County Press is glad to apply a little more glue to it.
Tying together the township's efforts to investigate the cleanliness of its waterways near a mushroom business with the growing concern over phorid flies in residences – instigated by what many in our community believe is the mushroom industry – Connors is conceiving a community forum that will bring the residents of neighboring townships and municipalities together with mushroom industry leaders. The forum would not only educate the public about the safety procedures of the mushroom industry, but also break down the communication walls that divide a growing population and the multi-billion-dollar industry that has too often – and unfairly – been the target of unfounded criticism for not following the rules. 
The foundation for such a forum has already been built.
During the past year, Sen. Andy Dinniman has lent his support and legislative influence to the festering and increasing presence of the phorid fly in our community -- one that has permeated the walls of homes and businesses from Landenberg to Oxford. He and his staff have brought together industry leaders, fly eradication experts from Penn State, and local citizens on two occasions, most recently on Oct. 25 at the Avondale Fire Company.
Although many in the audience were appreciative of the event, it was an evening where the slow and steady science of phorid fly eradication was met with frustration, and where suggestions were met with accusations. For more than two hours, industry leaders sat and took verbal bullets from residents who demanded immediate answers and surefire solutions.
The event did, however, give faces and voices and stories to a conversation that has long been needed in southern Chester County, one that needs to address the issue of the mushroom industry and its impact on the environment, and one that desperately calls for the education of the public about what the industry is doing to maintain high standards of quality.
We recommend that a forum of this kind bring together industry experts, mushroom farmers, elected and appointed officials and local residents, in a two-day itinerary of sessions on specific topics, informal question-and-answer meetings and multi-media presentations – each targeted to provide information on industry-wide food safety standards, phorid fly eradication studies, and air and water safety procedures. Local restaurants and caterers could provide mushroom dishes to be shared at communal tables.
Organizing such a community-based forum of this kind, however, would involve a three- to six-month commitment of neighboring townships and municipalities. And yet, when faced with the task of planning an event of this size, organizers must weigh the cost of planning versus the cost of doing nothing.
Every year, the Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square serves as Chester County's love letter to the industry that has become the economic lifeblood of a tight-knit community. A forum of the kind that Connors is imagining would serve as a Mushroom Festival of the classroom kind, one that breaks down barriers and turns spitball ideas into solutions.  
Should an event of this kind come to be, we have only one rule. Finger pointing solves nothing, and those intending to use this event as an opportunity to cast blame without knowledge will politely be asked to stay home.