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Protecting the Brandywine at its Source

Let the river run. Proactively protecting Brandywine River headwaters in Honey Brook.

Nathan and Patricia Stoltzfus have a family farm in Honey Brook Township, where they keep a modest dairy herd and raise corn, alfalfa, wheat and soybeans. That’s not unusual. What is a bit unusual is that a tributary stream to the East Branch of the Brandywine runs right through the Stoltzfus pasture. Honey Brook sits at the headwaters of the Brandywine River.

Determined to be good stewards of the land, the family fenced the stream and planted trees along its banks (two agricultural best management practices) quite a few years ago. When Nathan became interested in preserving the farm for future generations, he contacted us.

Honey Brook Farm

We developed a conservation plan and helped the family preserve their farm through the Chester County Agricultural Land Preservation Program. Nathan’s mission dovetailed perfectly with the work we started more than two decades ago — working with Honey Brook Borough and Township to preserve open land and farmland and to protect the headwaters of the Brandywine River.

Since that catalytic moment, we’ve helped preserve more than 25 percent of the land in Honey Brook Township.

We identified Honey Brook as a largely open area with sensitive natural resources that would benefit greatly by protection from likely development. Our municipal assistance experts joined forces with our land conservation staff to work with Borough and Township officials, as well as local landowners and residents. Over the years, we’ve studied costs, educated and encouraged community support for a successful tax referendum to fund conservation, written zoning ordinances, and helped dozens of farmers, like the Stoltzfus family and others, preserve their land through agricultural conservation easements and ensure sustainability through conservation planning.

Preserving the land. Protecting the water.

The Stoltzfus story is just one example of the tremendous growth in the area’s land preservation. This momentum started in 2005 when Honey Brook hired us to assist with their municipal comprehensive plan update. Since that catalytic moment, we’ve completed 19 conservation easements (totaling 1,270 acres), which have helped preserve more than 25 percent of the land in Honey Brook Township. In fact, there’s been a four-fold increase in preserved land in the Township over the last decade, ensuring that the waters of the Brandywine are protected at their source.

Honey Brook Farm
Honey Brook Farm

The City of Wilmington funds our farmland preservation and conservation planning because it’s a cost-effective and proactive way to protect the drinking water its residents rely on.

The City of Wilmington’s nationally recognized Source Water Protection program contributes to both the purchase of headwaters easements and our work implementing agricultural best management practices (BMPs) in Honey Brook Township. The City funds Brandywine Conservancy’s farmland preservation and conservation planning because it’s a cost-effective and proactive way to protect the drinking water its residents rely on. The following additional partners have been instrumental in Honey Brook's conservation success: Honey Brook Township, Chester County, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Pennsylvania state agencies, Chester County Conservation District, William Penn Foundation, Open Space Institute, Mt. Cuba Center, and numerous private foundations.