The Chester County Commissioners and Chester County Ag Task Force announced the start of a countywide agriculture economic strategic plan this week, during a visit to Herban Farms, located on the grounds of Cheyney University. The plan will strengthen agriculture, the county’s top industry, and reinforce its role in building healthy communities and a sustainable economy.
Marian Moskowitz, Chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners, said, “This agricultural plan will assess our county’s current industry subsectors, and identify trends and opportunities for future growth. It will also help us determine how the County, our agricultural service providers and industry partners can provide targeted support.
“Data will only tell you so much. The best way to determine how to keep agriculture strong is to listen to our local farmers, hear what they really need and understand the ways we can assist them.”
County Commissioner Josh Maxwell added, “Whether they are first or fifth generation farmers, producers need to see a profitable path forward.
“It was great meeting Rick Constantine and Justin Derro at Herban Farms. They didn’t start out to be farmers, but they became pioneers and experts in indoor growing, a sector that has a lot of growth potential in the region.
“Rick and Justin demonstrate the entrepreneurship and ingenuity needed to succeed and grow a business, especially during these challenging times.”
Family-owned and operated Herban Farms grows sweet basil which is sold at grocery stores throughout the region. The basil is grown year-round thanks to cutting-edge hydroponic greenhouse technology. Herban Farms leases its land from Cheyney University and works with the university’s faculty on its hydroponic research.
The innovation happening at Cheyney, however, is only one part of Chester County’s agricultural industry.
County Commissioner Michelle Kichline noted, “When most people think about Chester County’s agriculture industry they think of our mushroom, dairy or equine farms. They see rows of field crops as they drive around. They spend an afternoon at their favorite winery or pick apples and pumpkins with their families in the fall.
“But it is a mix of traditional farming and newer business models that make Chester County a unique place to farm. We need to ensure the profitability of all of our producers, so that we continue to be one of the top agricultural producing counties, not just in the state, but in the nation.”
The Chester County Ag Task Force, a group made up of county and regional ag partners including the Chester County Ag Council, Chester-Delaware Farm Bureau, Penn State Extension, the Chester County Intermediate Unit and the Western Chester County Chamber of Commerce, had been discussing the need for an agriculture economic development plan for several years. The pandemic further highlighted the need to support this critical industry.
“We are excited to work with farmers across the county to find out how we can better serve their needs and help this place-making industry thrive, regardless of future challenges,” says Ag Council Director Hillary Krummrich.
The county has engaged ACDS, an agricultural and community development consulting firm based out of Maryland, to guide the plan and engage with key stakeholders and agriculture groups.
Learn more about Chester County’s agriculture economic strategic plan and the Chester County Ag Task Force at chescofarming.org.