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Basciani Foods founder Mario Basciani celebrates 90 years

Mushrooms are in the Basciani family’s blood.

Emidio Basciani first began picking mushrooms for the Pratt family in the early 1920s and eventually started Basciani Bros. in 1925.

His son, Mario (Chuff) Basciani, started working on the family farm at a young age and fell in love with all aspects of the business — especially the hard physical work that comes along with mushroom farming. After graduating from high school in 1947, Mario joined his brothers Flavian and Emidio Jr. (affectionately known as Chuff, Flav and Chicken), in starting their own mushroom business. A few years later, Mario and his wife, Anna, bought a mushroom farm in Avondale, PA, and built a ranch house in which they still live.chuffMario (Chuff) Basciani celebrating his 90th birthday.

Today, Basciani Foods grow all sizes of white mushrooms and exotic mushrooms, pack for national retail grocery store chains and foodservice distributors, and have processing and storage facilities in Chicago and Minneapolis.

On Jan. 20, Mario celebrated his 90th birthday and the family held a big party at that ranch house in Avondale with his three sons, two daughters, 18 grandchildren and 38 great grandchildren in attendance. Many in the community also came out to join in the festivities.

“My dad has forgotten more in this business than most people know,” said Michael Basciani, managing owner of the company today. “This has been his life since he was born. His reputation is second to none.”

Success for Mario is no secret: work hard and give 100 percent to the industry. He has always understood that the mushroom business is a roller coaster ride and he was one to always hang on.

In 1970 as the family grew, Mario formed M&M Basciani with his oldest son Monnie. Mario’s sons Richard and Michael, and Mario’s son-in-law George soon came on board. In fact, Mario loved the business so much that he got his nephews started in mushroom farming as well. Over the years Chuff became known for his hard work, big heart and integrity. He was entrusted with a seat on the board of two other companies, which he helped to guide throughout the years.

There’s no greater example of Chuff’s strength than two accidents he suffered. In 1967 he was hit by a tractor-trailer, which put him in a coma; it was something of a miracle that he survived. Then in 1980, he was hit by another truck, and despite the doctors’ dire predictions, he beat death again.CHUFF0003Mario Basciani and his wife, Anna.

It was after the second accident that his sons pushed him to get into the fresh packing business. They started with a small packing room on Penn Green Road, which was later decimated by a tornado. Not to be discouraged, they rebuilt a bigger and better packing room in which today the Bascianis pack and ship about 1.5 million pounds of mushrooms per week.  

“He was the guidance for me and my brothers to take our business to another level. He had the vision. He’s a guy who is hardcore conservative, says to never to overextend yourself… but what a pusher,” Basciani said. “He’s the guy to this day who is always willing to make moves and going forward. He’s always positive.”

Mario still lives on the main farm, which is currently being expanded, and hordes of family members are in and out of his home every week, with Michael comparing it to a Grand Central Station of relatives — and Mario is still there advising everyone who comes along.

“I had a few people I looked up to when I was young, but my father has always been my idol,” Basciani said. “And he’s still an idol to all of us kids and his grandchildren. How many kids can work side by side with their grandfather? He’s doing that with my son, Michael Jr., and is looked up to by everyone.”

All one needs to do is look at the Basciani Foods Facebook account on the day of Mario’s birthday to see the love and respect he gets throughout the industry as there were hundreds of well wishes and birthday greetings.

“It’s like in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, because that’s the life he has had — one that’s just amazing,” Basciani said.

“The key to our success is having our parents, both 90 years old, guiding us. My dad is like a mushroom bible; he knows what works and what doesn’t. The 21st century never scared him because he’s always been ahead of the times,” he added.