Hamiltons named top farmers at annual soil, water banquet

WINTERSVILLE – Looking back and looking forward were topics touched on during the 70th anniversary of the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual meeting, banquet and election of supervisors held Monday at St. Florian Hall.

Jodee Verhovec , board chairman, introduced a program on the documentary “The Dust Bowl” by telling that the southern plains was the “last frontier of agriculture” in the 1910s and 1920s, when wheat prices, a war in Europe, a series of unusually wet years and generous federal farm policies created a land boom.

The great plow up turned 5.2 million acres of thick, native grassland into wheat fields and newcomers rushed in with towns springing up overnight.

And then the drought began. It would last eight straight years. Dust storms became commonplace. Huge dirt drifts piled up in front of homesteaders’ doors and came in through window cracks. The documentary was aired on PBS and offers accounts from survivors. It was shown on the St. Florian screen as JSWCD staff discussed how the county group joined conservation districts across the nation to establish a conservation farmer of the year recognition.

The very first recipient of the county Conservation Farmer of the Year award was August DiNardi of Piney Fork, who became a district cooperator in 1945 and served on the board. Other ag leaders of that time were Kenneith Burgett and, later, his son, Wesley; Esther Smith; Robert Gray; Vincent West; Andrew Kostelnick; Richard Schneider; Edgar Buchanan; Bob and Paul Ramsey; Walter Sutton; William A. Newburn; Ernie McConnell; John Varkony; Steve Laposki; Harold Randolph; Martin Adams; John Parkinson; the Rector family; Edgar and Scott Hill; Robert Vahalik; the Kithcart brothers; Ralph and Tom Griffith; Steve and Melissa Griffith; the Mercer family; Oliver Kirk; Robert Harr; John Dallas; Ray Piergallini; Steve Laposki; Harold Randolph; John Robert Kirk; the Albert Huffman family; Pete Puskarich; Adam Gruszecki; Calvin Householder; Charlie Henry; George Davis; Dick Franckhauser; Tim and Sharon Finney; Charles Cleaver; Dave Hyde; Rebecca and Ang Corso; Eugene Battlochi; Brent and Shawna Nemeth; Adam and Tina Costarella and family; Charles Stingle; and John and Cathy Cavanauagh.

Jack and Mary Lou Hamilton then were announced as the recipents of the 2013 JSWCD Conservation Farmer of the Year award. They have been implementing conservatition practices on their farm for many years, including focusing on reducing soil loss, improving soil and livestock health for their herd of about 100 animals in Smithfield Township.

The JSWCD Distinguished Service Award was established more than 35 years ago to recognize individuals and groups who exceed their support of conservation groups. Todd Piergallini was named for assisting the district with events such as bus tours, business after hours, meetings and banquets. He pledged to purchase products from local producers and growers for the JSWCD annual meetings. Produce vendors from the Eastern Gateway Farmers’ Market depend on his purchasing support and his willingness to preserve farmland, heritage and culture.

In the photography contest, Terry Bell of Richmond was the animal category winner; Darlene McConnell of Irondale, culinary; and Diane Bannister of Weirton, landscape. Guy and Paula Bush finished in first, second and third place in the Big Tree Contest with beech trees being the species. All trees were from Cross Creek Township Park.

Mark Nelson and Ken Perkins were elected to the board of supervisors.

Boy Scouts Tyler Rielly and Isaac Smith accompanied by their Scout Master, Tom Sweda of Troop 3, sponsored by the Grace Lutheran Church, provided the color guard and pledge to the flag to start the program. The Rev. William D. Cross, parochial vicar of the Wintersville Catholic parishes, gave the invocation.