A feature from the 2023 Farm Prodcuts Guide.
The Chester County Commissioners and Chester County Ag Council presented the 2022 Chester County Farmer of the Year award to Jamie Hicks, owner-operator of Hicks IV, a crop farming business named in honor of his four young sons. Hicks and his team run the largest crop operation in the county through leasing land from over 100 different landowners. Clients range from equestrians with a few horses to high-profile organizations including Longwood Gardens, Natural Lands, Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, and Winterthur.
"It is a joy to recognize the hard work of farmers in our community," says Commissioners' Chair Marian Moskowitz. "Agriculture is vitally important to Chester County, and this is an opportunity to highlight Jamie Hicks, one of the leaders of that industry."
Hicks is widely regarded in the agriculture community for his entrepreneurial drive, sustainable farming practices, and innovative partnerships. This includes participating in cover-cropping studies with Stroud Water Research scientists. Cover cropping is a practice where plants are grown to cover the soil and may be incorporated into the soil later for enrichment. It has been shown to build organic matter in the soil and decrease water and fertilizer run off.
"The more we can retain and build healthier soil, the better our crops will be when we harvest them in the fall," Hicks explains.
"Jamie Hicks is a leader in Chester County's agriculture industry in every sense," says Commissioner Josh Maxwell. "His business is a great example of how successful farming and environmental stewardship go hand-in-hand."
Each year the Chester County Board of Commissioners and the Ag Council recognize a farmer, farm family, partnership, etc., who maintains and exemplifies outstanding farming practices. Learn more about our Farmer of the Year awards program.
Hicks sees great promise in farmers driving agribusiness, the cross-section of agriculture and business — from production and processing to distribution. He believes the way forward is with new markets and product opportunities, such as Pennsylvania's emerging hemp industry, and partnering with nontraditional customers like online retailers interested in environmentally friendly packaging materials.
According to Hicks, Chester County is a good place to farm because of its easy access to ports and large consumer markets, including New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. This makes it easier for Hicks and his fellow farmers to get their products to customers up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Hicks also notes that farming in Chester County means he is close to the mushroom industry that supplies fertilizer for his fields as well as serving as a big market for Hicks IV hay and straw.
When he isn't busy in the fields or in his office, he enjoys participating in local events and fundraisers. Being active in the community has given him a way to talk about the industry he is so passionate about with residents far and near.
Thinking about the next generation of farmers, Hicks recommends they look at least ten years into the future and anticipate how agricultural products can best serve emerging business trends. He encourages farmers to never miss an opportunity and know that customers will move on quickly if their needs aren't met. He acknowledges that farming can be a rewarding career, but it is not for the faint of heart.
"We all do it for the love of farming, but there are definitely easier ways to make money," he laughs.
Left to right: Cynthia Petrone-Hudock,* Hemp-Alternative; Dr. Barbara Dallap-Schaer,* Penn Vet New Bolton Center; Commissioner Josh Maxwell; Kate Hicks; sons Graham, Alex, Jameson and Matthew Hicks; Farmer of the Year Jamie Hicks; Adam Mowery,* Mowery Environmental; Commissioner Michelle Kichline; Hillary Krummrich, former Ag Council Director; Commissioner Marian Moskowitz; Vincent Pompo,* Lamb McErlane PC. (*Indicates Ag Council Member.)