KING OF FARM­ING

County’s Agri­cul­tural Coun­cil hon­ors Elias King and Sara Man­ning

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Rel­la­han and Pete Ban­nan mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com, pban­nan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

The cul­tural di­vide be­tween new res­i­dents in western Ch­ester County and long­time mem­bers of the ar­eas’s Amish com­mu­nity can seem great at times. But when some­one breaks that gap, it can leave a sense of won­der.

That’s the feel­ing that Ge­of­frey Shelling­ton de­scribed when he spoke of the clever man­ner in which own­ers of the Pump­kin Farm reached out to res­i­dents of the town­house devel­op­ment that sits nearby in Sads­bury. One day, the new­bies were treated to the clop-clop sound of horse hooves on their devel­op­ment pave­ment.

It was the sound of Elias King’s fam­ily bring­ing pro­duce door to door. “They started brin­ing pump­kins, gourds, and home-grown veg­eta­bles in a horse and buggy,” Shelling­ton said re­cently. “They’d knock door to door. Every­one now loves to see it.

It is not ev­ery­day that you see a horse and buggy stop at your door.”

Shelling­ton spoke about King and his fam­ily in the af­ter­math of the honor of King be­ing named Ch­ester County Farmer of the Year

by the county’s Agri­cul­tural Coun­cil. The an­nounce­ment was made at a re­cent county com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing. It is the first time that an Amish farmer has been given the award.

At the same time, the coun­cil an­nounced that the group’s Distin­guished Agri­cul­tural Ser­vice award was given to Sara Man­ning, who worked for the Amer­i­can

Mush­room In­sti­tute for over 20 years be­fore her re­tire­ment ear­lier this year.

Asked in a con­ver­sa­tion at his farm out­side Parkes­burg for his re­ac­tion on learn­ing he won the award, King ex­pressed a com­bi­na­tion of mod­esty and grat­i­tude. “It was ex­cit­ing for me,” he said. “I was sur­prised; I had never been nom­i­nated be­fore. I don’t go around and look at other peoples farms. And I’m not try­ing to make my­self bet­ter than any­one else.”

“If a busi­ness thrives, you know he (the owner) en­joys what he is do­ing,” said King, who works the farm with his wife Re­becca, his sis­ter and brother-in-law and their fam­ily.

The Kings open their ap­prox­i­mately 70-acre Parkes­burg farm ev­ery fall to thou­sands of visi­tors for pump­kin pick­ing right off the vine. King’s Pump­kin Farm also of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore an elab­o­rate corn maze, feed farm an­i­mals in the pet­ting zoo and pur­chase a va­ri­ety of lo­cally pro­duced farm prod­ucts in the farm store.

In ad­di­tion to the as­pects of the farm that are open to the pub­lic on a seasonal ba­sis, the Kings grow corn, soy­beans and wheat, and op­er­ate a dairy in part­ner­ship with Elias’ sis­ter, her hus­band and their fam­ily who also live on the farm, the agri­cul­tural coun­cil said.

At the com­mis­sion­ers’ meet­ing, Shelling­ton, who nom­i­nated the Kings for the award on be­half of the county’s Open Space Preser­va­tion De­part­ment, said the nom­i­na­tion had come not only be­cause of the Kings’ out­reach ef­forts in their com­mu­nity, but also be­cause of their sen­si­tive farm­ing tech­niques.

“We are im­pressed by their ded­i­ca­tion to con­ser­va­tion prac­tices like no-till cover crop­ping in the fields and strate­gic graz­ing prac­tices for the dairy cows,” he said. “Elias and Re­becca also play an im­por­tant role in their com­mu­nity, cre­at­ing a wel­com­ing at­mos­phere for area res­i­dents and their chil­dren on the farm.”

Later, Sheling­ton ex­plained that “no-till” farm­ing had taken some buck­ing of the tra­di­tional sys­tem on the King’s be­half. But he said they grew to ac­cept that the prac­tice keeps the pre­cious soil in place.

“They had to change their mind­set,” he said. “Don’t dis­turb the soil. Keep it where we need it, not run­ning down the road­way.”

“The Kings ex­em­plify all the cri­te­ria the coun­cil looks for in a Farmer of the Year win­ner,” said coun­cil Di­rec­tor Hil­lary Krumm­rich. “They serve as role mod­els for their in­dus­try, em­ploy good con­ser­va­tion prac­tices and have de­vel­oped in­no­va­tive ways to main­tain and grow their thriv­ing farm busi­ness.”

On a re­cent visit to the farm, King was happy to show his pet­ting zoo op­er­a­tion, which he started in 2003.

“We al­ways love hav­ing the pub­lic visit,” he said of the zoo, which has chick­ens, ducks and a pig.

But he stressed that Pump­kin Farm is an Amish op­er­a­tion. At the farm store, they use an honor sys­tem — even though they have had theft prob­lems. He re­mem­bered catch­ing a lo­cal man af­ter he stole the cash change box.

Af­ter po­lice caught the man he con­fronted him. The man told him his story. “I for­gave him, I to­tally for­gave him,” King said. The man said “I’m sorry.” And King said “I hope you come back as a cus­tomer.”

“If I can help a per­son straighten his life out by get­ting the help they need, that’s what I’m do­ing,” King said. “It makes me think, God in heaven sees us 247. His an­gels pro­tect us, but we still have our part of ac­tions to do.”

As to Man­ning, the coun­cil said she ad­vo­cated for crit­i­cal work­place safety ini­tia­tives that have helped bring safety train­ing to mush­room house em­ploy­ees through cre­ative means like con­ve­nient, por­ta­ble iPhone ap­pli­ca­tions,” said Krumm­rich. “Her pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm for the mush­room in­dus­try will be sorely missed by her col­leagues across the county and be­yond.”

The Ch­ester County Agri­cul­tural Devel­op­ment Coun­cil pro­motes agriculture in Ch­ester County by rais­ing aware­ness on is­sues re­gard­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of lo­cal agriculture and pro­mot­ing agri­cul­tural ex­cel­lence and farm­ing. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.chesco.org/ agdev, Face­book and In­sta­gram pages.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Elias King feeds the geese on his farm in Sads­bury Town­ship Wed­nes­day. He was re­cently named the Farmer of the Year.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Elias King holds a chick on his farm in Sads­bury Town­ship Wed­nes­day. He was re­cently named the Farmer of the Year.

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