“Hard work; problem solving; and responsibility.” That’s how Representative Clint Owlett remembers growing up on a farm.
“Best view of Harrisburg is in the rearview mirror,” said Owlett. “On my way home.”
Home is where Owlett has his focus – where he can listen to the farmers; where he listens to their stories.
It was only natural that Owlett was one of those who spoke at “Spring Ahead,” the Bradford-Sullivan County Farm Bureau’s spring meeting held at the Troy Sale Barn on Saturday, March 23.
The meeting started mid morning with a vendor fair that had something for all interests and ages.
Amy Kneller from the Bradford County Conservation District attracted the attention of the children attending with her demonstration showing how different land uses help prevent flooding.
Bryan’s Meat Cutting in East Smithfield provided lunch, serving their famous brisket, salt potatoes, baked beans, macaroni salad and fruit salad. Bradford County Dairy Princess Emilie Cole gave a special “milk toast”.
Following lunch, District 5 Director John Painter gave updates on impact fees, Sunday hunting, farm truck laws dairy labeling and putting whole milk back into schools. Then State FFA President Jenna Harnish gave an update on the State FFA and the Wyalusing Sale Barn.
“We really need to make some changes in our milk marketing,” said Painter. “Pennsylvania is second in the number of farms lost.”
Bradford County Conservation District’s Nate Dewing facilitated an Agriculture Legislative panel consisting of Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, Owlett and Friends of Agriculture Foundation Charlene Shupp Espanshade.
“Agriculture is a business,” said Redding. “A business without walls.”
“How can we better help young farmers?” was a question addressed to the panel.
Owlett offered several suggestions including getting young people involved, continuing to support our FFA, and at the school level teach how to write a business plan to help teach them the business model.
Espanshade advised engaging in conversations about farming. She and her family have a farm in the Lancaster area. When she and her children go to the grocery store, her children say, “That’s our milk!”
Targeting children through the schools, Espanshade mentioned that “Ag in the Classroom” is a great resource.
Redding spoke of the conservation of farms.
“It’s part of farming,” said Redding.
“The pork industry has turned veggies into bacon,” said Paul Yoachim of Rome, Pa. “They just about doubled their production per person using 48 percent less water in the last 50 years.”
When asked, “How do we promote our dairy products?” Espanshade responded that the key is “personal connectivity.”
While Espanshade explained how important it is to talk “farming” in every aspect of your community, everyone was given a half pint of chocolate milk to take the “Chocolate Milk Challenge” to see who could drink it the fastest. It was Russell Redding! But the real “winner” was that there was a whole group of “personal connectivity” taking place in that large room in the sale barn.
The special event that took place at the spring meeting was the presentation of the Century Farm Award to Tom and Shirley Young of Troy.
In addition, Owlett presented them with a citation from the House of Representatives.
“The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania congratulates Thomas C. and Shirley A. Young upon their well-deserved recognition,” said Owlett. “Offers best wishes for continued success in all future endeavors.”
“One of the special moments of being Secretary of Agriculture is recognizing those century farms,” said Redding. “Every farm has a story.”
And Tom Young told his story. He thought back to Shirley’s Uncle Frank Clark who bought the farm on Route 14 south of Troy in 1917. He made his living there with seven cows, a flock of chickens, a big garden, and a couple of pigs for his own use and a team of horses for plowing. Frank and his wife, Jennie, never worked off the farm since the farm kept them busy with full time work. They stayed there for 50 years until they passed away. Since they didn’t have children, Tom and Shirley acquired the farm.
“When they passed away they didn’t owe anybody. Taxes were paid and they had a small amount in the bank,” said Tom. “So they had a pretty good life!”
Tom remembers that Frank had an old car. It eventually became an antique after Frank passed away and Jennie was there on the farm alone.
“Everybody wanted to buy that car because it was an antique,” explained Tom. “Jennie said she would sell it to the local boy who mowed her lawn because she thought he’d take care of it. And he did. And he’s still got the car!”
According to Tom, you can still see Dale Palmer drive that car in local parades!
Tom also admitted that a few years ago he said to Shirley, “Your Uncle Frank was here for 50 years. We’ve been here about 49. If we just hang in there a little longer we can get one of those signs!”
And they did.
Tom Young finished his speech with words from his heart: “Bradford County’s got generations – they never leave; they never give up.”