Willistown strawberry farmer Robert Lange is Chester County’s 2014 Farmer of the Year, and retired dairy farmer Robert Ray of Glenmoore is winner of the Distinguished Agricultural Service Award.
The two local ag heroes were chosen and recently honored by the Chester County Board of Commissioners and the Agricultural Development Council.
Lange is owner of Sugartown Strawberries, located on 230-acre Willisbrook Farm in Willistown. The Century Farm has been in Lange’s family since 1896.
The commissioners say Lange is a very popular figure in the county since Sugartown Strawberries hosts approximately 5,000 school children a year. He also grows produce, pumpkins and sunflowers. Portions of the farm are in agricultural preservation and Lange employs conservation practices to protect and manage the farm’s natural resources.
Lange has also successfully lobbied for improved estate tax laws for agricultural properties, and received the Distinguished Service to Agriculture award in 1996.
Ray, this year’s winner of the distinguished service award, is a longtime farming education advocate and former dairy farmer. He has served on the ADC for 29 years.
Although Ray retired from dairy farming in 1994, he still grows hundreds of pounds of produce to donate to the Chester County Foodbank. Until last year, Ray drove the tractor at Highland Orchards, giving tours of the property and educating thousands of visitors about the importance of agriculture.
In 2000, Ray conveyed 40 acres to Wallace Township to be turned into a public park. A past director of Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau and volunteer school educator, Ray has spent much of life increasing public awareness of the importance of local agriculture.
The ADC promotes agriculture in Chester County.