Donna Bella Farms will stop operating its mushroom-growing facilities in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County, laying off 161 people, a large number of whom – if not all – will be offered new employment.
That total includes 123 direct hires and 38 employees from a temp agency working at multiple transient locations who will be laid off as of June 30, according a Worker Adjustment and a Retraining Notification filing with the state Department of Labor & Industry. Donna Bella Farms’ primary address is 5A Mountainside Road, Temple.
All employees have been notified; none are represented by a union.
Donna Bella Farms, which is being dissolved, is a joint venture 50% owned by Giorgi Mushroom Co. and 50% by Monterey Mushrooms.
Joe Caldwell, president of Giorgi Mushroom, said in a phone interview that the current business climate, in which demand for mushrooms is low, prompted the decision. He said the growing rooms Bella Donna uses are owned by Giorgi or Monterey.
They are shut down temporarily and will re-open when demand improves, he said.
The WARN letter said Giorgi Mushroom “will continue and perhaps expand certain mushroom-growing operations currently undertaken by GMC at DBF’s locations. GMC currently anticipates that employment opportunities will be provided to a substantial number of DBF employees.”
An HR team from Giorgi is meeting with workers this week, Caldwell said. “I really expect the vast majority of (Bella Donna) employees will come on board.”
Giorgi Mushroom Co.’s website said the company “is a vertically integrated, family owned and operated agribusiness in Berks County. … GMC is the largest, single-location mushroom farm in the world, producing over 180 million pounds annually of the Agaricus bisporus varieties: White Button, Portabella, Cremini and Shiitake mushrooms. Our operations span 3.7 million square feet of growing space across six farms and 468 indoor growing rooms including several organically certified operations.”
A joint venture with Monte Blanco, the largest mushroom grower in Mexico, provides Giorgi Mushroom with 400,000 square feet more of growing capacity to service its Southwest U.S. markets with freshly picked mushrooms.
Paula Wolf is a freelance writer