PENFIELD — One hundred years in the family.
Those six meaningful words on a sign directed family and friends to the William Crawford Farm in Penfield last weekend to celebrate a very momentous occasion – official recognition as a Centennial Farm by the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The citation, signed by state Rep. Matt Gabler, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai and Chief Clerk of the House, states:
Crawford Farm was founded by Albert Vernon Crawford on Oct. 1, 1919, and it has been managed by the Crawford family for three generations, passing to Jack R. Crawford and William R. Crawford, the current owner. With an innovative and progressive attitude, along with the conviction to operate with integrity and vision, the farm has earned a reputation for quality and service over the past 100 years. Since its inception, Crawford Farm has been an integral part of the Penfield community, and it will continue to offer its quality craft for many years to come.
“I’m just proud I have it,” owner Bill Crawford said.
Crawford said reaching the 100th anniversary mark was something he and his father, Jack, talked to each other about achieving 20 years ago.
“My dad, he made a good run at it,” Crawford said. “He lived until seven years ago. He was 91 when he passed away. And then I was part of it my whole life, I’m going on my 66th year, so I’ve been here for quite awhile too.”
The 100-acre farm is a pleasure, he said.
“It has never made its own way,” Crawford said. “It took another income the whole 100 years to subsidize it, I mean, the way it is. We’ve had it, we’ve cultivated and we’ve had cattle the whole 100 years.”
His grandfather, Vernon, walked from the farm every day to work in the mines.
His father, Jack, worked in maintenance at Stackpole Carbon in St. Marys. He was a U.S. Army veteran, having served during World War II from June 1942 until October 1945 in the 79th Infantry Recon Division.
“I’ve cut logs, hauled coal and excavated,” Crawford said. “Farming is something that you do just because you love it.”
Though he’s the owner now, Crawford said he can’t take all of the credit.
“I have a brother and a sister,” he said.
His sister, Bona Challingsworth, of Penfield, lived apart from the farm, but she provided the nursing care for their father when he needed it.
“Everybody in my family stepped up to help,” Crawford said. “My brother (Kenneth Crawford), he worked away, but if there’s something broken down and we needed help fixing it, he was right here. It was a family effort. I’m just the one who has the honor of having it in my name.”
Challingsworth agreed, saying the family farm is about family working together.
“My grandpa’s dream was to own a farm. He shared that dream with my father, who joined him at an early age and learned to care for the land,” Challingsworth said. “My brothers, in turn, joined my dad when they were young to learn the workings of the farm. Three generations planting, harvesting and working together. The centennial is a celebration of one man’s dream and how family carries it forward.”
Crawford said he also had lots of friends who helped him along the way.
“When I broke my leg and was laid up for eight weeks, I can’t even name all of the people who came here to help me,” he said.
Many of those friends and family took part in the flag ceremony and two-day celebration at the farm on Sept. 21-22.
“I wanted to have it next to my dad’s birthday,” Crawford said. “He would have been 99 on Sept. 19 so we picked this weekend to celebrate because the weather in October can get a little bad. October 1, 1919, was when my grandparents moved here.”
Members of the Penfield Volunteer Fire Department prepared much of the food for the festivities.
“It’s been a community effort,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good friends who were happy to see me make it to 100.”
Local artist and Penfield native Perry Winkler created a painting representing the farm and family.
“I’ve always had a great respect for farmers and their families who work so diligently to provide their services,” said Winkler, who also attended the celebration. “The concept of three generations and 100 years in maintaining this beautiful farm is mind-blowing.”
Visits to the Crawford farm have been ongoing throughout Winkler’s life.
“My memories of picking strawberries, collecting corn stalks, spotting deer at night are special to me,” Winkler said. “When Billy asked me to produce this painting, I was more than happy to take it on.”
The location, “Mt. Pleasant,” is suitably named and is absolutely beautiful, Winkler said.
“The Crawford family are wonderful people and I’m honored to be involved and linked with the family if only through my memories and now this painting,” he said. “The idea to include Billy’s father and grandfather was Billy’s as was the team of horses on the barn. Piecing it together and placing the 1942 John Deer tractor by the barn was to emphasize the transition from horse to machinery.”
Even though the 100-year milestone has been met, Crawford has no plans to slow down.
“I work running equipment all day, every day, driving a truck, driving a bulldozer, driving a backhoe,” he said. “And I can’t hardly wait to get home to run to the farm tractor way into the night. I tell everybody, everybody’s got a vice. This gets in your skin the same way. It’s something you want to do and you don’t quit.”
Crawford is hopeful the family farm will survive for generations to come after he’s no longer able to take care of it.
“We’re going to try,” he said. “I have two sons (Jason and Keith), three grandsons, a granddaughter and four nephews. There’s a bunch of family to carry it forward.”