County Ag Council publishes guide to local farms and produce

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Just in time for a summer full of exploring Chester County’s pick-your-own farms, vineyards, farmers’ markets and more, the Chester County Agricultural Council has released its new Guide to local farm produce in Chester County.

The publication showcases the diversity of local farms and agricultural products in the county, from fields of strawberries to rows of radiant peonies. The guide, highlighting more than 125 family farms and markets, includes a map and farm addresses to make them easy to find, as well as a chart that shows what’s currently in season.

“In this issue, you’ll learn the history of the popular Chadds Ford Peony Festival, meet the county’s Farmer of the Year, find out what it’s like to run a micro-dairy and embrace the healing power of horses”, said the manager of the Chester County Agricultural Council. Hillary Krummrich. “We hope the guide inspires readers to eat well, get out more, and connect with their farming neighbours.”

Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline highlighted the importance of agriculture in the county.

“With approximately 31% of land in Chester County devoted to agriculture, farming is a vital industry to the regional economy and the county’s sense of place,” the commissioners said. “Even as the county’s population continues to grow rapidly, our agricultural heritage endures with a wide variety of farming types.”

Chester County ranks second among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties (and 53rd in the United States) in the total value of agricultural products sold with annual sales of over $712 million.

This year’s Farmer of the Year, Darryl King of West Grove, is featured in the guide. He and his wife, Pam, grow corn, soybeans, wheat and barley, mostly for animal feed. King became a strong advocate for farmland preservation.

“Land preservation is hugely undervalued compared to other types of possible land uses. Which costs a community more money in the long run: a farmer or a housing estate,” he asks. “I dream of leaving the earth in better condition than I had it in my turn to take care of it.”

The new guide details the diversity of farms across the county, from the 32-acre woman-owned micro dairy, Pigeon Creek Farm in Pottstown, to Styer’s Peonies Flower Farm in Chadds Ford to the Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern, part of the Chester County’s vibrant equine community. Thorncroft is one of several Chester County Therapeutic Riding Centers listed in the guide.

Pigeon Creek Farm owner Abby Bramm began pursuing her dream of farming during the pandemic in 2020 when her hours as a Penn State Extension 4-H program assistant were cut and she had to earn a living.

“Relationships are what made this business possible,” Bramm said. “Learning from older generations brings wisdom that you can’t get from a book. As a 4-H leader, I have seen many farms start up and many farms have to close. It was extremely important for me to have the time to reflect on our business plan and what we can do differently. »

Styer’s Peonies owner Richard Currie said the farm now grows more than 200 varieties of peonies on about 100 acres. “I cannot harvest all the peonies I grow; I always want to plant more and more”, he laughs.

Currie said the pandemic and related cancellation of events and celebrations presented challenging times for florists, but he also noted that Styer’s direct customer business had increased significantly in recent years. “Studies show that people are willing to spend more on flowers during an economic downturn; it’s an affordable luxury to lift your spirits,” he said.

And of course, no Chester County Farm Guide, including this edition, would be complete without guidance on the county’s biggest crop, mushrooms, grown in and around Kennett Square.

A guide to local agricultural products is available free of charge at libraries, township and county offices, Kimberton Whole Foods locations, and select farm stands across the county. Readers can also access the guide online at www.chescofarming.org.


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