Wyebrook Farm in Chester County plans to close its restaurant and market for the time being as its owner decides how to address issues raised by local, county, and state officials. The farm itself will remain open.
It's apparently a victim of its own success, the owner says.
Former hedge-fund manager Dean Carlson, who opened Wyebrook in 2012 on 360 acres in West Nantmeal Township, said township officials told him that the business needed additional infrastructure, including more paved parking, to comply with its zoning. "They're reasonable people," Carlson said, describing talks with the township as cordial. A township solicitor did not reply to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said Wyebrook Farm had added a restaurant to its farm operation without receiving the necessary approvals from DEP and the Chester County Health Department, including permits for its septic system. The DEP called for a planning module to help determine whether the existing system is adequate, the spokeswoman said.
Carlson and the state spokeswoman said the restaurant and market's shutdowns were voluntary. The farm itself will continue; it sells its meat through La Divisa, a stand at Reading Terminal Market. "The farming operation is not a problem," Carlson said. "It's the restaurant and retail."
"When I first started, I estimated how many people we'd have out here," Carlson said. "I was just guessing. When we put in the septic system, I had them make it double-sized so an issue never would come up. We've never had an issue in reality. Then some guy from the DEP came here for dinner and made a big deal about it."
Carlson said he was gratified by support since he made word of the closing public. "This community of people have proven that you do care about these things … and for that we are extremely grateful," he said in a Facebook message.
Since small farms rely on ancillary, public-facing businesses such as markets and restaurants to help their bottom line, "if we want to keep agriculture viable in this day, we've got to figure out how to make it work," Carlson said.