4/13/2013 7:00 AM
By Marilyn Hershey Southeastern Pa. Correspondent
WEST CHESTER, Pa. — The Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau held its annual spring banquet March 28 at the Goshen Fire Hall in West Chester.
Mary Lou King of Cochranville, the recent winner of the “Unstoppable Mom” contest on the TV show “Live with Kelly and Michael,” told the 123 attendees that she is “proud to be a farmer because farmers support each other,” referring to the farmers across the country whose votes helped her win the contest.
King said that when the show’s producers came to the farm to shoot the video, they were in awe of her schedule and lifestyle, and told her the family’s “milk tasted like fine wine.”
Three awards were presented during the evening program. The first went to David Rotelle of September Farms of Honey Brook.
September Farms is a family-run business that processes 50,000 pounds of cheese a year from its 50 Holstein cows. Its 24 varieties of cheese have received three national awards over the years.
In 2002, Rotelle walked away from a family business so he could raise his young children in a farming lifestyle.
He said he recognizes this as a “difficult decision, but God has been good in their leap of faith.”
Since September Farm’s establishment, Rotelle said, he has seen a larger demand for PA Preferred and local foods, and he estimates that 65 percent of the family’s cheese is sold directly from the farm.
His wife, Roberta, and their six children work alongside him.
The second award went to Larry Welsch, executive director of the Downingtown-based Chester County Food Bank, which is not a typical “canned corn and peanut butter” food bank.
Instead, it focuses on teaching people how to grow their own food and sponsors a strong “gleaning program.”
Last year, the food bank reached a milestone of 1 million pounds of fresh produce gleaned from local farms and community supported agriculture operations, or CSAs.
Welsch said there are “537 raised garden beds in over 40 local schools,” where food is raised and gleaned for use in the cafeterias, teaching the children firsthand about how food is raised.
He pointed out that there are 70,000 people in Chester County who rely on food banks, including 12,000 children.
The final award went to Terry Brett of Kimberton Whole Foods, a small grocery chain dedicated to local organic foods.
Brett said he enjoys helping customers understand that “people who are involved in agriculture are real providers.” They are not in the agriculture business for personal gain “but for something much deeper; they are people who grow food and value the land.”
There are currently four Kimberton stores with a fifth scheduled to open soon.
Howard Robinson, longtime advocate for the Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau, reported that it was the first county Farm Bureau in Pennsylvania to reach its goal of 846 regular members.
This is the second year it has accomplished this, and Glenn Michalak, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s regional organization director, commended Howard for singlehandedly “signing up 20 members.”
There are also 5,859 associate members in Chester and Delaware counties.