Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline, along with members of the Chester County Agricultural Development Council (Ag Council), presented two agriculture awards this week at a public meeting that also revealed a draft of Chester County’s first ag economic development strategy.
Farmer of the Year Award
The 2021 Chester County Farmer of the Year award was presented to Darryl King, owner-operator of Manor Hill Farms in West Grove, where he and his wife Pam grow row crops on 220 acres. King also owns Manor Hill Hay and Grain in Cochranville, a self-serve store selling pine shavings, hay, and straw.
King was nominated for the award by the Chester County Ag Land Preservation Board for his work championing farmland preservation and encouraging his peers to consider environmentally-friendly practices like no-till farming and the use of cover crops to retain and build soil health.
“I dream of leaving the land in much better shape than how I got it during my turn to care for it,” says King. “My goal for my farm is to bridge the gap between farmer and consumer. I want people to understand how much effort I put into the farm and the crops.”
In addition to King’s devotion to natural resource management, he is being honored for his community spirit and willingness to help others in need, especially new farmers. Whether it’s helping with a broken piece of machinery, giving planting advice or even helping to rebuild after a natural disaster, he is often one of the first to volunteer.
“It’s important to be there when tragedy strikes,” he says. “The world would be such a cold and lonely place if we farmers only viewed one another as competitors and threats to our own operations.”
In presenting the award, Chester County Commissioner’s Chair Marian Moskowitz said, “When you meet Darryl, you see that his inclination to work with and mentor other young farmers isn’t just a part of his business model, it’s his philosophy and way of life.
“It’s inspiring to hear of young entrepreneurs like Darryl who take the time to build up their communities and share the knowledge with their peers.”
The Duncan Allison Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award
The Duncan Allison Award for Distinguished Service to Agriculture was presented to Betsy MacCauley of Atglen for 30-plus years of service to the agriculture industry through her work as a 4-H Club livestock leader.
4-H is an informal education program for youth ages 8-18, designed to teach youth life skills, built on subject matter projects developed by Penn State Extension and National 4-H Council.
An accomplished farmer in her own right, MacCauley has impacted the lives of hundreds if not thousands of aspiring young farmers through her ongoing volunteerism, leading Chester County’s Golden Fleece Sheep Club, judging competitions, mentoring youth, and welcoming visitors from all over the country to her family’s award-winning sheep farm.
“Betsy is a fabulous volunteer and worthy of recognition,” says Toni Stuetz, Penn State Extension Educator. “She is an asset to our 4-H program and the Chester County ag community.”
Chester County Ag Economic Development Strategic Plan
Following the award announcements, consultants from agriculture-specialists ACDS, LLC unveiled a draft of Chester County’s ag economic development strategic plan, and discussed opportunities to create technological advancement, strategic partnerships and industry resilience.
“Chester County has a tremendous history of being one of the largest and most productive agricultural counties, not just in the Commonwealth, but in the nation, and we want to make sure it stays that way,” said County Commissioner Josh Maxwell. “Our world class soils, access to strong consumer markets and excellent farm entrepreneurs position us for industry growth.
County Commissioner Michelle Kichline noted, “We know farmers across all sectors have been facing challenges, and more so because of the pandemic. There are real needs to connect the public to the local agriculture industry, and help farmers with access to land, business resources and succession planning.
“We want agriculture to thrive in Chester County and be able to adapt to whatever comes our way, which is why the success of this economic development strategy is crucial.
Chester County Ag Council Board Chair and mushroom grower Chris Alonzo says, “The mushroom industry depends on the success of many other ag industry sectors like crop farming, equine, specialty HVAC, processing, and trucking. Together Chester County agriculture is stronger than any one individual farm or farmer.”
Learn more at the Chester County Ag Council’s website.