Celebrating Chesco's Open Space Achievements — A Follow Up to the 2022 Open Space Summit
Posted June 7, 2022
Chester County celebrated a milestone achievement in open space preservation during the 2022 Open Space Summit on Tuesday, May 10: over 30 percent, or 147,000 acres, of Chester County is now preserved as open space.
The Summit, themed "Farms for the Future", was held at Springton Manor Farm and focused on the importance of preserved agricultural lands. Presentations highlighted the role preserved farms play in Chester County's economy, quality of life, and sense of place, and highlighting how farms can be integrated into the ecology and community of a place. Tours of the park followed the presentations, including a tour of the Chester County Food Bank's raised bed gardens and greenhouses, making it an informative and inspirational evening for those who attended!
Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, provided the keynote address — with presentations and remarks from the Chester County Commissioners, Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline, Fred De Long, Director of the Community Farm Program at Willistown Conservation Trust's Rushton Farm, the Department of Parks + Preservation's Director, Dave Stauffer and Ag Programs Coordinator Geoff Shellington, and the Chester County Planning Commission's Sustainability Director, Rachael Griffith.
Commissioner Moskowitz welcomed everyone to the Summit by noting the importance of Chester County's farmers. "Behind every farm is a farmer and a farmer's family, and preserving farms not only prevents land from being developed, it protects the farmer's livelihood, provides jobs for farm workers, strengthens our local food system, and strengthens our farming industry."
"Today, I thank our municipal partners, our partners at the State, the many wonderful land trusts, and the farmers themselves who leverage Chester County's open space preservation investment in our agricultural communities. Together we have preserved over 43,000 acres of farmland in Chester County and I look forward to working with all partners to increase that number in the future — for the benefit of everyone" she said.
Commissioner Maxwell added to Commissioner Moskowitz's remarks by commenting on the county's robust agricultural program and history.
"There is a deep well of agricultural expertise and farming tradition here, and we know that farmers across all industry sectors have been facing many challenges — even before the pandemic. We know this because we are the only county in the Commonwealth — that I know of — with an Agricultural Development Council that monitors and supports the ever-evolving needs of farmers. We also support the industry through programs at the Penn State Extension and the Conservation District."
Commissioner Kichline followed by recognizing the Summit's theme and its importance — Farms for the Future.
"On National Agricultural Day — back in March — Marian, Josh and I were pleased to adopt the County's first ever strategic plan to show our ongoing commitment to those who provide us with food, fuel and fiber. The Chester County Ag Economic Development Strategic Plan identifies ways that the County can support farmers as well as other agricultural service providers and sets out an ambitious set of recommendations to keep the industry viable and thriving long into the future."
During the keynote presentation, Russell Redding highlighted Chester County's unique access and benefit to both rural and urban communities.
"In addition to this amazing community, you're right here in this metropolitan spot. When you look around you've got the Amish and the English, you've got dairy and mushrooms, all this agriculture tourism, all this work being done to preserve land — and at the same time and you have this incredibly vibrant agriculture community. It was part and parcel to being part of the County and State, as well as the preservation work which gives purpose to preservation."
In addition to the Summit, the county featured tours of agricultural operations on preserved land throughout the month of May to give residents and other interested individuals a first-hand opportunity to see the variety of farms and farm products in Chester County, as well as the value of agriculture preservation.