The Chester County Board of Commissioners, along with the Agricultural Development Council (Ag Council), presented two agricultural awards at a recent Commissioners’ Meeting.
The 2017 Farmer of the Year award was presented to Don Cairns of Cairns Family Farm in Parkesburg.
When you think of the farm-to-table movement, artisanal cheese or heirloom tomatoes on a restaurant menu might be what first come to mind. However, chances are good that if you’ve eaten pretzels, bread, or baked goods from a local bakery, you’ve eaten something grown on Cairns’s family farm.
Much of the wheat that he grows is milled into flour at nearby mills, and is found in baked goods made and sold right here in the county. The rest of his crops, including corn and soy, are used for animal feed for area livestock that are also sold locally as milk, eggs, chicken, and bacon.
In addition to his critical role in the local food chain, Cairns was also nominated for his ongoing commitment to conservation practices, including no-till farming and soil improvement on the approximately 1,650 acres of land he farms in the county, both owned and leased. During the past two decades, he has seen improved crop yields and undeniable improvements in soil conservation as a result. His exemplary farming practices have also resulted in favorable reviews from neighboring farmers and the landowners whose property he leases.
The Distinguished Agricultural Service Award was presented to Deborah Ellis for her ongoing work with the Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab program (Ag Lab), an initiative of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau that brings agricultural education to classrooms all over the state via a classroom on wheels.
A former Coatesville School District teacher, Ellis worked as the Ag Lab program assistant for the eastern portion of the state for 10 years, guiding teachers during in-service workshops and teaching thousands of students a year about the importance of farming. During her last year as an Ag Lab employee, she estimates the Ag Lab program connected with more than 110,000 kids across the state.
In addition to her Ag Lab work, Ellis also owns and operates Highspire Hills Farm in Glenmoore with her husband Duane. The farm currently provides more than 3,000 dozen eggs a month to nine local restaurants, as well as to Kimberton Whole Foods markets.
“It might seem like just another day’s work to Don and Deb, but they both provide for us in so many ways, from growing the food we eat to serving as agricultural ambassadors in the community. We are delighted to honor them for all that they do,” said Hillary Krummrich, Director of the Chester County Agricultural Development Council.