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Chester County Ag Council

Chester County Ag Award Winners

The Board of Chester County Commissioners and the Chester County Agricultural Development Council (Ag Council) present two annual awards, Farmer of the Year and Distinguished Agricultural Service. The Farmer of the Year award recognizes a farmer, farm family, partnership, etc., who maintains and exemplifies outstanding farming practices.

The Duncan Allison Award for Distinguished Agricultural Service, named after a former long-serving and incredibly dedicated board member, honors an individual(s) who has positively promoted, made significant contributions to, or provided exceptional services for the Chester County agricultural community.

Meet the Chester County Farmers of the Year

Miller Family

Jesse, Ken, Sue and Randy Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm

The 2023 Chester County Farmers of the Year award was presented to the Miller family, Ken and Sue Miller and their sons Randy and Jesse, who own and operate Birchrun Hills Farm, a dairy and cheesemaking business in Chester Springs, Pa. The Miller family was recognized for their dynamic business model, commitment to sustainable farming practices, and local food system advocacy.

First generation dairy farmers Ken and Sue Miller started farming in 1980 when Chester County farmland was plentiful to lease and milk prices were strong. After weathering years of volatile milk prices and rising land costs, they took a chance on cheesemaking in 2006 to secure more a stable future for their farm. Sue, the primary cheesemaker, credits support from Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, cheesemaking mentor Peter Dickson of Parish Hill Creamery in Vermont, and Di Bruno Brothers gourmet shops in Philadelphia for her early successes.

"It wasn't easy for us to start making cheese," Sue recalls. "Randy and Jesse were so young back then, and it took many special relationships with fellow farmers and a lot of family cooperation to allow us to explore this new venture."

Ken Miller, one of the first no-till farmers in the county, oversees the crop growing side of their business using sustainable farming practices to feed their 80-cow herd on owned and leased land. He is forever mindful of the watershed he and his family are stewards of and how the quality of the land and water is reflected in the flavors of the cheese they produce.

Birchrun Hills award-winning cheeses have developed a strong following of chefs, food critics and specialty retailers across the region. Cheese fans can find them at the Phoenixville, Bryn Mawr, Kennett Square and Headhouse farmers markets, and at their regular cheese and wine on-farm happy hours. They've even branched into hosting virtual cheese tasting events.

The Milller family is grateful for the ongoing support from their neighbors, friends, and farmers market customers as they look to eventually transition the farm to their sons Randy and Jesse. The next generation of the Miller family currently oversee Birchrun Hills' herd management, farmers market operations and assist Ken with the crops. Together the family compliments each other's skill sets and challenges one another to strive for excellence in all they do.

"We love connecting people with their food and what better way to do that than feeding them really good food on the farm it comes from," says Sue Miller. "We encourage people to get to know us and see how we raise the cows, and to truly appreciate the land our food comes from."

Learn more about Birchrun Hills Farm.

Sue Miller Podcast

Listen to Sue Miller talk about what it means to be a dairy farmer and cheesemaker in Chester County on this episode of the Start Local podcast:

The Duncan Allison Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award

Kevin Hicks

Dr. Kevin Hicks of Lundale Farm

The Chester County Commissioners and Ag Council gave the Duncan Allison Award for Distinguished Service to Agriculture to Dr. Kevin Hicks of Malvern, Pa., for his volunteer work shepherding sustainable forestry practices and invasive species removal at Lundale Farm in Pottstown. Lundale Farm is a community of regenerative farmers enhancing the ecology, health, and diversity of the land, and serves as a model for local food production and forest stewardship on over 500 acres of preserved land outside of Pottstown.

A retired USDA scientist, Hicks has brought his scientific acumen and problem-solving skills to help Lundale plan for and improve its wooded acres through exploring timbering, reforestation, managing invasives, planting riparian areas for agroforestry and the sale of carbon credits. As the board chair of the Sustainable Forestry Committee, Hicks is also tasked with leading groups of volunteers to implement his recommendations.

Hicks contends that the biggest question a landowner faces is what happens if they choose to do nothing to manage their woodlands.

"A hundred or even 50 years ago, nature would have taken its course," says Hicks. "We didn't have invasive species like we do today. Now Chester County is at the edge of the storm front, dealing with a huge amount of invasive species coming in on shipping materials from our nearby ports, things like lanternflies, oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, stilt grass, and emerald ash borers."

Hicks and his wife Pam, also a board member at Lundale, work hand in hand with Lundale's leadership and tenant farmers to make sure any actions taken are a good fit for the nonprofit's organic, regenerative focus.

"Dr. Hicks is a wonderful ambassador for sustainable forestry in Chester County," says Ag Council Interim Director Ann Lane. "He cares deeply for the environment, on both a personal and professional level, and gives so much of his time to show what's possible for Lundale and other forested lands."

Learn more about Dr. Hick's work and Lundale Farm

Previous Winners

Previous Award Winners
Year Farmer of the Year Distinguished Service to Agriculture
2023 The Miller Family Dr. Kevin Hicks
2022 Jamie Hicks The Baily Family
2021 Darryl King Betsy MacCauley
2020 Sonya Beltran & Family Chester County Agriculture Community for Pandemic Food Assistance
2019 The Gable Family Duncan Allison
2018 Duane and Marilyn Hershey Charles Graydus 
2017 Don Cairns Deborah Ellis 
2016 Elias and Rebecca King Sara Manning
2015 The Team at Seven Stars Farm
Lewis Wilkinson
Howard and Janet Robinson
2014 Robert Lange Robert Ray
2013 Drs. Thomas and Barbara Schaer
Peter Flynn
Daniel Miller
2012 Dave and Roberta Rotelle Larry Welsch
Terry Brett
2011 Ike and Lisa Kerschner
David Hodge
Joseph Fecondo
2010 Steve Castorani
Jane Pepple
2009 Norman Laffey Family and
Anthony and Karen Vietri
Nancy L. Mohr
Joseph and Ben Cordivano Donald (Buster) Needham
2007 Stan and Cathy Guest Charles Harris
2006 Karen Vollmecke
John Arrell
2005 I. Glen Engle Family
Dennis Byrne
2004 Phillips Mushroom Farm
Betsy Huber
2003 Angelo J. Zunino and Son Inc. Charles L. Roten
2002 Knight Run Farm George and Sue Lamborn
2001 Walmoore Holsteins, Inc. Arthur Hershey
2000 Gottlieb Strohmaier Family Gary W. Smith
1999 David Lantz Family Cheryl Fairbairn
1998 The Raymond Harnish Family Furman Gyger, Jr.
1997 Tim Barlow and Ben Beiler

1996 Matthews Family Robert Lange
1995 Rosazza Family Hoopes family
1994 Omar and Nelson Beam families G. Pownall Jones
1993 Yeatman Bros. Charlie Brosius
1992 Horace/Hazel Walton Charlie Gable
1991 Ken/Marilyn Umble Hoopes Yarnall Family
1990 Bill Beam Harold Kulp
1989 Mason Brothers Charlie Wollaston