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Chester County Ag Council

Farmers of the Year

Farmers of the Year: The Miller Family of Birchrun Hills Farm

A feature from the 2024 Farm Prodcuts Guide.

"We love connecting people with their food," says Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester Springs, Pa. "We want our customers and neighbors to get to know us, see how we raise our cows, and truly appreciate where their food comes from."

The Chester County Commissioners presented Sue, her husband Ken and sons Randy and Jesse with the 2023 Chester County Farmers of the Year award in an on-farm ceremony in October. The Miller family was recognized for their dynamic business model, commitment to sustainable farming practices, and local food system advocacy — not to mention their award-winning cheeses like their celebrated Birchrun Blue, Red Cat and Equinox varieties.

First generation dairy farmers Ken and Sue Miller started farming in the 1980's when Chester County farmland was plentiful to lease and milk prices were strong. After enduring years of volatile milk prices and rising land costs, they took a chance on cheesemaking in 2006 to secure a more stable future.

"We knew that we needed to do something different. That we should use the beautiful milk our cows were producing and add value to that milk through cheesemaking," says Sue.

Sue credits support from PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture), cheesemaking mentor Peter Dixon of Parish Hill Creamery and Westminster Artisan Cheesemaking in Vermont, and Di Bruno Brothers gourmet shops in Philadelphia for helping her learn the art and science of cheese production. They encouraged her to create cheeses unique to Birchrun Hills and not worry about industry trends.

Ken, an early adopter of no till and cover cropping practices, oversees the crop management side of the business using sustainable farming practices to grow feed for their 80-cow Holstein herd. He is forever mindful of the watershed his family stewards and how the quality of the land and water is reflected in the flavors of cheese they produce. "Chester County has some of the best non-irrigated soils in the world, we should never take that for granted," he says.

Sue Miller's Cheese Ideas for Everyday

Breakfast — Try fromage blanc instead of cream cheese on your bagel. Fromage blanc is a fresh cheese that is bright, tangy, milky and makes an excellent spread.

Lunch — Assemble a "ploughman's lunch." This traditional English style meal is based around cheese, cured meats and sausages, rustic bread, pickled veggies, and fruit. Serve with ease on a cheese board. Quick and easy.

Dinner — If you have company coming, serve baked brie wrapped in puff pastry with a local jam. On a busy night, add feta or blue cheese to your salad to make it extra special. Melt your favorite local cheese on burgers.

Sons Randy and Jesse handle herd management and the sales and marketing aspects of the family's business respectively. Both graduated from Cornell University's animal sciences program which they credit for affirming their choice to return to their family's farm. "The Dairy Fellows program at Cornell University allowed us to tour and study many diverse dairy businesses in the northeast and has been immensely influential in our decision-making for our business" says Randy.

With Randy and Jesse working full time at the farm, the family has been able to expand their reach into new markets. Their cheeses have developed a passionate following of chefs, food critics, and specialty retailers across the region. Cheese enthusiasts can also find them at the Phoenixville, Bryn Mawr, Kennett Square, Royersford, Fairmount, Northern Liberties and Headhouse farmers markets and at their newly opened farm store in Chester Springs.

The Millers have also started hosting a weekly on-farm happy hour each Friday with neighboring Le Garage Winery. Aptly named "The Cheesiest Happy Hour" the tagline is "come for wine and cheese, stay for cows and conversation." Visitors can sip a glass of wine while enjoying house curated "grazing boards" featuring Birchrun cheeses and locally produced accompaniments, all while listening to live music and catching up with friends.

"When people come to our farm, we want them to feel connected to agriculture. We want to build community. We want to be their farmers," says Sue.

What would the Miller family like to see more of in the future?

"We'd like to encourage more people to shop locally and include more local cheese for their everyday table, not just special occasions," says Sue. "Cheese makes people slow down and enjoy life."

Award Photo

Left to right: Ann Lane, Interim Ag Council Director; Commissioner Josh Maxwell; Randy Miller; former Commissioner Michelle Kichline; Sue Miller; Ken Miller;
Commissioner Marian Moskowitz. Missing from the photo is Jesse Miller.


Birchrun Hills Farm | 1020 Davis Lane, Chester Springs PA 19425 | 484-798-4023 |