Just in time for a summer full of exploring Chester County’s pick-your-own farms, wineries, farmers markets and more, the Chester County Agricultural Council has issued its new Guide to Local Farm Products in Chester County.
The publication features the county’s diverse array of farms and locally-grown farm products from strawberry fields to rows of radiant peonies. The guide, highlighting over 125 family-owned farms and markets, includes a map and farm addresses to make them easy to find, plus a chart that indicates what’s currently in season.
“In this issue, you’ll learn the history behind Chadds Ford’s popular peony festival, meet the county’s Farmer of the Year, discover what it means to run a micro dairy and embrace the healing power of horses,” said Chester County Agricultural Council Director Hillary Krummrich. “We hope the guide inspires readers to eat well, get outside more and connect with their farming neighbors.”
Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline emphasized the importance of farming in the county.
“With approximately 31% of Chester County’s land devoted to farming, agriculture is a critical industry for the regional economy and the county’s sense of place,” the Commissioners said. “Even as the county’s population continues to rapidly expand, our farming legacy endures with a great variety of farming types.”
Chester County ranks second among all 67 Pennsylvania counties (and 53rd in the U.S.) in the total value of agricultural products sold with annual sales of more than $712 million.
This year’s Farmer of the Year, Darryl King of West Grove, is featured in the guide. He and wife, Pam, grow corn, soy, wheat, and barley, primarily for animal feed. King has become a strong advocate for the preservation of farmland.
“Land preservation is extremely underrated when compared to other kinds of possible land uses. What costs a community more money long term: a farmer or a housing development,” he asks. “I dream of leaving the land in better shape than how I got it during my turn to care for it.”
The new guide details the county’s farm diversity from the 32-acre woman-owned micro dairy, Pigeon Creek Farm in Pottstown, to Styer’s Peonies flower farm in Chadds Ford to Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern, part of Chester County’s vibrant equine community. Thorncroft is one of many therapeutic riding centers in Chester County that are listed in the guide.
Pigeon Creek Farm owner Abby Bramm began fulfilling her farm dream during the pandemic in 2020 when her work hours as a Penn State Extension 4-H program assistant were reduced, and she had to make a living.
“Relationships are what made this business possible,” Bramm said. “Learning from older generations brings wisdom that you can’t get in a book. As a 4-H leader, I saw lots of farms start and lots of farms have to close. It’s been hugely impactful for me to have the time to think about our business plan and what we can do differently.”
Styer’s Peonies’ owner Richard Currie said the farm now grows more than 200 peony varieties on about 100 acres. “I can’t harvest all the peonies I grow; I keep wanting to plant more and more,” he laughs.
Currie said the pandemic and the related cancellation of events and celebrations presented challenging times for florists, but he also noted Styer’s direct-to-customer business has increased significantly in recent years. “Studies show that people are willing to spend extra on flowers in an economic downturn; it’s an affordable luxury to cheer yourself up,” he said.
And of course, no Chester County Farm Guide, including this edition, would be complete without tips on the county’s biggest crop, mushrooms, grown in and around Kennett Square.
A Guide to Local Farm Products is available free-of-charge at libraries, township and County offices, Kimberton Whole Foods locations, and at select farm stands across the county. Readers can also access the guide online at chescofarming.org.