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Chester County’s new Agriculture Economic Development Strategic Plan

The Chester County Commissioners adopted in March the county’s first agriculture economic development strategic plan, created to guide the future growth of Chester County’s important agricultural economy.

Rock Hill Farm, under threat of unwanted development, contains prime agricultural soils. A study has shown that the land contains a large section of prime agricultural soils. Prime farmland, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops.

Rock Hill contains three classes of prime agricultural soils, including Class 1 and Class II. Class I soils have slight limitations that restrict their use. Class II soils have moderate limitations that reduce the choice of plants or require moderate conservation practices.

Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz commented on the new county plan, by saying, “Agriculture is such a significant part of our county’s heritage, culture and landscape, and in the face of increasing competition for use of land, we are working hard to ensure Chester County farming remains vibrant and strong. This strategic plan addresses the many challenges currently impacting the ag industry and provides a road map for all opportunities to spur growth and innovation.”

Commissioner Michelle Kichline added, “When farm businesses thrive, there is less competition for other more intensive land development. Successful farms also bring increased employment, a vibrant local food community, venues for family fun, environmental benefits, and the overall sense of place enjoyed by so many in the county.”

Willistown’s own Comprehensive Plan states township leaders should protect prime agricultural land. Development of Rock Hill Farm will put the rich soil at risk.

A number of crucial reasons exist for preserving Rock Hill Farm. The land is situated in the midst of historic Willistown Township and is an ecological gem worthy of protection. The property includes more than 200 acres of old-growth forests, wetlands, rolling hills and streams. Crum Creek runs through the property and provides drinking water for thousands and is one of the purest waterways in the region. The land is surrounded by Township-designated scenic roads, criss-crossed by sensitive riparian areas and wetlands, graced by historic buildings.

Local efforts are underway to stop the unwanted development. Local neighbors have formed a Save Rock Hill Farm group. Neighbors and those affected by the development are urged to make their opposition known to the officials of Willistown Township and attend township meetings.

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