— Agriculture Secretary George Greig recognized three farm families for working their Pennsylvania farms for generations Wednesday during the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
The Sonner Farmstead, now under the care of David and Melba Williams and sister Sandra French, was purchased on Dec. 26, 1856.
The acreage originally supported an orchard and winery, and now supplies vegetables for the family's farm market and hay. The farm is one of 28 Century Farms in Wayne County.
Williams has been a fixture at the Pennsylvania Farm Show for the past 12 years, providing coverage through both radio and television. He tries to "cover everything."
Every year, he looks forward to "the annual FFA (Future Farmers of America) meeting," when around 5,000 young people descend on the fair and discuss their futures in farming. Another favorite activity for Williams is interview the young people.
Since the Century Farm program's inception in 1977 and the creation of the Bicentennial Farm program in 2004, the agriculture department has recognized 1,926 Century and 160 Bicentennial Farms.
"The Farm Show is a great place to recognize our state's longstanding, dedicated farm families," said Greig. "More than 97 percent of Pennsylvania farms are family owned, and many pass from generation to generation. The resilient families we honored today are a shining example of our state's rich farming heritage that spans centuries."
There were other farms honored from across the state, and they are as follows:
The Ralph and Geraldine Fair farm in Manns Choice, Bedford County, received Bicentennial Farm status.
Information on the fair farm dates back to the original sheepskin deed from the William Penn family to Dr. John Anderson, founder of the Bedford Springs resort.
The farm was sold from Anderson to Ralph Fair's great-great-great-grandfather for $5 per acre, and the family retains the Sept. 5, 1812, deed from that transfer, too.
The homestead's oldest structure is a farmhouse built in 1837, still used today. The family's eighth generation is helping on the 226-acre organic dairy and poultry operation. Bedford County is home to 27 Century and 5 Bicentennial Farms.
The Zimmermans have lived in Buffalo Valley since the 1800s, and the Kevin and Jonna Zimmerman family can trace its roots to those early farmers. Great-uncle Orville Zimmerman bought the farm for $29 per acre on May 19, 1910, a mile from his parents' farm. Four generations of Zimmermans have worked the farm's original 56 – now 156 – acres, now primarily a poultry and beef operation. Union County is home to 32 Century Farms.
The Samuel and Everell Wagner Farm of Tionesta, Forest County, also received Century Farm designation, but no representatives could attend the presentation.
The century farm program was established to help promote the strength and durability of Pennsylvania's farm families and to recognize families who have been farming the same land for 100 years.
Page 2 of 2 - To be eligible for the program, a farm must be owned by the same family for at least 100 consecutive years. A family member must live on the farm on a permanent basis, and the farm must include at least 10 acres of the original holding or gross more than $1,000 annually from the sale of farm products.
Application details are available online at www.agriculture.state.pa.us by searching "Century Farm" or by calling 717-705-7796.