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Chester County Press

Kennett Township: Help bring paradise to Chester County

02/07/2017 11:44AM ● By Richard Gaw
In her song, “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchell wrote the following lyrics:
“Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you got till it's gone...”
Although the intentions of the songwriter were to address the impact of our world's increasingly harmful environmental miscalculations, the sentiment can also be applied to anything that falls under the category of Things We Take for Granted. For the last century, thanks primarily to the mushroom industry, Chester County has been North America's leader in indoor agriculture. It has expanded from a great experiment to a multi-billion-dollar industry, with year-round production, packaging and distribution to all corners of the globe, including 50 percent of the U.S. market. In the Kennett Square area alone, technology has not only kept up with increasing demand, it has in many ways outpaced it. Visit any indoor agricultural facility and see for yourself: immaculately kept growing facilities operated by a skilled and experienced workforce, partnered with a commitment of curiosity that continues to explore methods of expanding indoor agriculture.
And yet, a question remains that needs to be asked, one spun from the Mitchell song and contorted to fit the parameters of the issue, a question that hovers over our area's economic future like a dark old bird:“Do we know what we have?” 
Phrased another way, is Chester County doing enough to leverage the good fortune of being the largest and most concentrated hub of indoor agriculture in the world?
Three weeks ago at the Indoor Ag Con Asia in Singapore -- the indoor agriculture industry's premier trade conference -- the Pegasus Agriculture Group, an international expert in indoor agriculture, announced its intention to support a public-private initiative to develop a global indoor agriculture production, research, training and service hub on the U.S. East Coast. Currently, no such facility exists.
At that same conference, Michael Guttman, a Kennett Township resident and a member of the township's Indoor Agriculture Committee task force, gave a presentation that essentially said to Pegasus -- and, in essence, to the entire indoor agriculture community -- Put It Here.
While other townships and municipalities in southern Chester County are content to devote their energies to solving the page-by-page issues of governance, Kennett Township has turned its attention to laying the groundwork for its future, both economically and environmentally. It began its Sustainable Development Office last year in order to maximize opportunities for social and economic development while at the same time maintaining a sustainable environment for future generations. Partnering with Pegasus to create an indoor agriculture hub in the township would play a huge part in furthering the township's mission.
The benefits are intoxicating: Developing an indoor agriculture research center in Kennett Township would position Chester County as a global leader in the indoor agriculture movement; it would attract environmentalists, economists and scientists from all around the world to develop and implement innovative methods of expanding indoor agriculture to under-served and over-populated regions and countries; and it would serve as a blueprint for other centers of its kind to be developed.
Through innovation, technology and plain hard work, the mushroom industry of Chester County has pushed open a door that will lead to a new method of feeding the world. It is time for others to take what this industry has given us and move forward with bold innovation. We encourage Kennett Township to place its partnership with the Pegasus Agriculture Group on the front burner of its priorities. To paraphrase Mitchell's song of forewarning, do not pave a potential paradise. Make one.