Reprinted from DELAWARE TODAY MAGAZINE, October, 1996:
“There aren’t too many people like us” even among the mushroom-growing families of Kennett Square and its environs, says Michael Basciani. “We’re one of the very few, if not the only, fourth-generation mushroom farmers in the country. Not many make it that long.”
The Basciani saga begins along the Adriatic Sea, in the Italian province of Abruzzi. Even today, the province is hardscrabble country. And it was from here in 1915 that Michael’s grandfather left for a new life in the New World.
“He started picking mushrooms for the Pratt family in 1915,” says Michael, “just like the immigrants from Mexico who come into Chester County nowadays.” Within five years, the grand old man was in business for himself. Three sons followed him, and one son’s three sons followed in turn. They are Michael, Richard, and Mario. (Since this article appeared, all three have adult children that have come aboard)
You don’t last four generations in a family business without family values being of paramount importance. Hard work is one of those values.
“This is not a business where you get a scheduled vacation,” says Basciani. It’s a year-round, wake-up-in-the-dead-of-the-night-to-check-the-temperatures business. It’s labor-intensive, and the workers do some back-breaking work. “You gotta be a people’s person,” Basciani says. “If the workers don’t see you working harder than them, it’s not going to motivate them. You have to be the example!”
The business that the younger Bascianis enter is a far cry from their great-grandfather’s farm....
“BASCIANI FOODS” does everything. They grow all sizes of white mushrooms and exotics, they pack for national retail grocery store chains as well as for foodservice distributors, they have processing and storage facilities in Chicago and Minneapolis, they ship over a million pounds per week! In 1970, they, along with other investors, bought The Mushroom Canning Company. This was done to control an outlet for secondary product, enabling BASCIANI to provide fresh customers with the highest quality prime products on the market.
Becoming #1 is a goal, but not an obsession. “Bigger isn’t always better,” Basciani says, “But if you constantly strive to be better... bigger just seems to follow.”