living and wandering in chester county

Sometimes you read things that just boggle your mind on social media. And today I saw something that I think needs to be discussed.

Chester County has a rich agricultural and equine history. Given the rampant development from one end of the county to the other, sometimes we forget that. And we can’t.

I have friends who have farms. I have friends who have horses. I have neighbors who have horses and other critters. It’s one of my favorite things about living out here because I love horses and when I was a kid I used to ride. And I will take photos. But I never trespass.

If an owner of a farm or a property invites me to be physically on the property, then I will visit. But I don’t go driving up their driveways or visiting with their animals without permission . When it comes to horses and farm animals they are valuable and these are people’s property as well as their pets. 

This afternoon I saw something which should surprise me but doesn’t.

The other end of Morstein is very developed, so no horses. Kids like animals and I think that’s awesome.

But these farms, the ones that remain, they aren’t petting zoos. And all the comments that followed this post being left is what blew my mind versus the actual request. There were people actually encouraging this person to just drive up this farm’s driveway. As in just trespass.

You can’t do that. You need permission. There are all sorts of things involved here including liability. And trespassing. These animals are valuable. What if you spooked one? Or opened fences meant to remain closed and they got out? What if all of the animals aren’t kid friendly or stranger friendly?

I have run into these situations before as I have another friend who actually has had “photographers” doing photo shoots on her property without permission. Photo shoots of entire families who were complete strangers to my friends. These people would drive up park on their property and stage these photo shoots in front of their fields and barn.

Now if you’re doing a scenic drive through Chester County and you stop and take a photo from the road of a barn or animals or trees or fields, you are not trespassing you’re driving through. No one minds that kind of appreciation.

I have another friend who has a small farm who told me today that they have discovered people parking and hanging out in their back fields before who are total strangers. These people didn’t ask permission and that’s not OK.

I also know other people with working farms that run into this problem all the time. 

I realize there are a lot of people out there that probably just don’t get that this isn’t OK. A lot of these people have limited experience with farms, and the animals found on them.

That is not to say I am Farmer in the Dell, because I am obviously not. But we have to respect these people, their properties and animals, and utilize common sense.

Would you like to find some strange person in your driveway just wandering around? I’m thinking the answer to that is no. So please don’t encourage people to do that with regard to these farms.

It’s because of situations like this where people just stop and think they can wander around a farm that you see a lot of farms today with a lot of no trespassing signs. Far more than you ever saw in the past.

The other point to ponder is if people love farms and farm critters do much, why so many plastic mushroom developments?

But please… don’t wander onto farms without prior permission. It’s really not OK.

Thanks and happy Sunday!

when good conquers evil eminent domain you get lavender fields

Long ago is what feels to be now another lifetime, I was part of the original Save Ardmore Coalition. We were ordinary people who banded together to save friends’ and neighbors’ businesses from eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore PA.

Along our journey the wonderful people at the Institute for Justice helped us and taught us and encouraged us. Through IJ we also met some amazing and inspirational people.  (and if your community is facing eminent domain check out the Castle Coalition part of the IJ website.)

Here straight from IJ (Institute for Justice’s website success stories):

Pennsylvania
Ardmore
Through the grassroots and political processes, a citizens group called the Save Ardmore Coalition (SAC) successfully defeated Lower Merion Township’s attempt to seize and bulldoze 10 thriving businesses in Ardmore’s charming historic district. When it comes to grassroots activism, the SAC did it all — rallies, protests, publicity campaigns and coordinated efforts to unseat local officials who supported eminent domain abuse. Its members testified before state and local bodies urging the reform of eminent domain laws, attended the Castle Coalition’s national and regional conferences, and worked with the media to bring attention to their battle. In March 2006, the Township took its condemnation threats off the table — no doubt in response to the public outcry generated by the SAC.

Valley Township
It cost Nancy and Dick Saha $300,000 of their retirement savings and six hard years, but they prevailed in their bout with the City of Coatesville. The couple bought their Pennsylvania farmhouse in 1971, making lifelong dreams of owning a small horse farm a reality. With their five children, the Sahas moved to Chester County and restored their charming 250-year-old residence. Truly a family farm, two of their daughters married and built their family homes on the land, giving Nancy and Dick the chance to see their five grandchildren grow up next door.

When Coatesville threatened to take their property by eminent domain to build a golf course—plans for which didn’t even include their farm in the first place—the Sahas remained fully committed to a grassroots battle. They submitted three petitions, protested at local meetings and took their fight to court. Ultimately, the city council backed off when the Sahas pushed to elect new representatives, agreeing to purchase five acres that the Sahas had offered to give the government for free at the beginning of the dispute.

It was a crazy time. What we all went through was hard. It was a brutal battle.  We went to Washington alongside the Sahas, Susett Kelo (think Little Pink House), people from Long Branch NJ, and many many more.  It was the time of the US Supreme Court case Kelo vs. New London.

Dick and Nancy Saha were inspirational.  They created a hand off my farm movement. (You can read about it here on the Institute for Justice website in more detail.) They had a great deal of local, regional, and national news attention.  We all did. It was kind of crazy.

It cost the Sahas hundreds of thousands of dollars and pure grit and hard work and they saved their farm.

I used to love seeing Dick and Nancy Saha.  They are the nicest people and they would make the drive from the Wagontown area to even visit us in Ardmore when we were hosting events.

But time and life move on and we all got on with our lives after eminent domain.  I moved to Chester County.  And since I moved to Chester County  I have thought about the Sahas once in a while.  I thought about reaching out, but then I thought well the battle was over so maybe it would seem weird.  But I always wondered what happened to the Saha family after.

So this morning an article from Main Line Today popped up in a social media feed. About two sisters named Joanne Voelcker and wait for it….Amy Saha! Dick and Nancy Saha’s daughters and their lavender farm! (Lavender farm? Wait what?? How awesome!!)

Two Sisters Transformed Their Family’s Chester County Farm Into a 42-Acre Lavender Oasis
Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker, the owners of Wagontown’s Mt Airy Lavender, have dedicated themselves to growing and harvesting seven different varieties of the plant.
BY LISA DUKART

In the heart of Chester County, there’s a little piece of Provençe, France, thanks to sisters Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker. On their 42-acre Wagontown farm, some 1,200 lavender plants flourish. In the warm months, those fields are abuzz with bees and butterflies. They flit from plant to plant, drunk on the heady scent the flowers release as they sway in the breeze.

Creating and maintaining such an idyll has been no small feat. Saha and Voelcker’s Mt Airy Lavender has required years of dedication and hard work. Their parents bought the farm in 1971, moving their family from Media to the homestead just outside Coatesville. With love and care, its rundown 48 acres began to thrive.

Years later, in 1991, the city of Coatesville tried to build on the property, claiming eminent domain. After a six-year legal battle, the family won, losing just six acres in the process. As their parents aged, preserving the land they fought so hard to protect became more and more important to the sisters. They couldn’t bear to see it sold.

Over the years, Saha and Voelcker built their own homes on the farm to be near their parents. The houses sit on either side of a long, shaded driveway that wends by pastures where horses can be seen cropping the grass. One lavender field is right behind Voelcker’s home. She began planting it in 2012, a year after she and her husband returned from a five-year stay in Brussels. “I worked and lived over there,” says Voelcker, the former head of client insight and marketing technology at Vanguard. “I got a chance to visit the South of France, and I just fell in love with the lavender.”

Please take the time to read the entire article. It’s so wonderful. I am so happy for the Sahas and this new success I am am all choked up with emotion.  It is so awesome to hear about nice things happening to nice people in a world that some days is truly nuts.

I can’t wait to visit the farm on open farm days.  Via their Facebook page for Mt. Airy Lavender I found their website.

They have great products they make that you can order online and they hose all sorts of events .

Events that interest me are the upcoming open farm days and I hope my husband will want to check it out:

Visit us when the lavender is expected to be in bloom – Mt Airy Lavender Open Houses – Sat. June 22, Sun. June 23, Sat. June 29, Sun. June 30
Come visit Mt Airy Lavender these weekends when we expect the lavender to be in bloom. Shop our products, bring your cameras and a picnic lunch. Fresh cut lavender and a variety of lavender products will be available for purchase. We aren’t normally open to the public, so this is a great opportunity to enjoy the farm. Please note – we lost quite a bit of lavender due to all the rain and lack of sun. We are in the process of replanting. The farm is still quite beautiful so we hope to see you at our Open Houses.

We will be open 11 am to 4pm on:

Saturday, June 22 & Sunday, June 23

Saturday, June 29 & Sunday, June 30

Note: Bees love lavender, please be aware that bees will be attending the Open House as well. If you are allergic to them, please take special precautions!

Click here for directions to their slice of heaven.

What else makes me happy? Not just that this is still a farm and was saved, but how farmers in Chester County get creative to exist in today’s world.  See? We don’t need fields of plastic mushroom houses, we can have things like fields of lavender instead!

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Another view of the Saha Farm today courtesy of Mt. Airy Lavender 

gone but not forgotten

This old Chester County farmhouse was once considered historic. It was listed on a historic inventory too.

And it was demolished anyway for development. In 2018 in East Whiteland Township.

The house was on Bacton Hill Road across from the mobile home community and the ruins of Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery.

But hey, no biggie, just another dead and buried farmhouse in Chester County, right? After all, they are developing all of the farm land so who needs an old farmhouses right?

lovely old chester county farm

Today I went to a very cool estate sale. It was on Lenape Road in West Chester. Not too far away from West Chester University.

It is one of those places that just takes your breath away. Both from the setting and just an amazing old farmhouse.

Built in 1840, it was a very prosperous farm, as this was a very good sized farmhouse. It once, according to someone I asked, was acreage- wise quite large. It still sits on a lovely large plot of Chester County farmland, which is so awesome to see.

The older couple who lived there and their family are selling it to a young family who will love and restore the farmhouse and the property. It is so gratifying to learn of people who care enough to take on a gem like this! Historic preservation and open space preservation are so important and we aren’t seeing nearly enough of that in Chester County.

This house was a privilege to see. I wish the new family many, many decades of happiness. It’s a wonderful farm house.

This house, barn, and property are so Chester County.