AgConnect Helps Local Artisan-Farmers Collaborate and Innovate
For Sue Miller, AgConnect has been a huge resource in growing her dairy and farmstead cheese business – Birchrun Hills Farm. This initiative of the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) aims to connect farmers to various agricultural economic development services, of which Miller has taken full advantage. Over the years, she has participated in social media training classes via AgConnect; received training funds that allowed her to attend the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference and take cheese-making courses; and had opportunities to network with other women farmers throughout Chester County.
Sowing the Seeds of Collaboration
In 2012, Miller and a team of other Chester County cheese makers approached AgConnect with a desire to collaboratively market and fundraise for continuing education that would benefit local farms. Out of this need, the Chester County Cheese Artisans was born. Soon eight cheese makers began marketing their high-quality, hand-crafted cheeses under the new brand. AgConnect assisted by providing staff support for their website creation and grant writing in addition to coordinating training with nationally known cheese makers so they could elevate their craft and learn from each other.
Miller also credits AgConnect with creating opportunities for training in farm marketing and developing a network of woman farmers and holding events specific to their interests. Likewise, she thanks AgConnect for “making connections between farm businesses that may not otherwise think to collaborate, like introducing cheesemakers to wineries and breweries in the area that now work together with retail sales, marketing, and pairings.”
AgConnect’s Bountiful Benefits
AgConnect is a vibrant network of farmers, business owners, and service providers connecting farmers to business resources, training, and financing to grow business and promoting smart agricultural economic development. The network serves all counties in Pennsylvania, but focuses most resources in the six Southeastern PA counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.
“AgConnect continues to be a huge resource for our family farm, and Jodi Gauker (Agricultural Program Manger) is only a phone call away when I have an idea for a training or connection,” Miller said. “It is a huge asset for our region and agriculture community! AgConnect truly lives up to its name by making connections!”
What’s next for AgConnect?
AgConnect is planning a Woman Farmer Day Luncheon in August, and a Local Food and Farm Fest for the fall. Keep up with all of AgConnect’s activities and news at www.agconnectpa.org.