JSWCD presents awards at banquet

A narration and pictures of life during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl were part of the program presented at the 70th anniversary of the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District annual meeting, election of board members and banquet.

The drought that lasted those eight straight years took the life out of the land, livestock and most of all the inhabitants of the eight states from the Dakotas to Texas and New Mexico, as told by Jodee Verhovec, JSWCD board chairman.

Two brief introductions, taken from the PBS series, “The Dust Bowl,” were shown to those attending.

In 1933, Hugh Hammond Bennett was named director of what would be known as the Soil Conservation Service, the authority on issues of soil erosion.

Now 75 years have passed, and the nation’s 3,000 soil and water conservation districts continue to work as the locally led conservation delivery system with assistance by the SCS, now named the Natural Resources Conservation Service, it was noted.

Jefferson County’s Soil and Water Conservation District was organized in 1944 and has been working with the agriculture community to conserve the county’s soil and water resources. Local farmers took responsibility to lead the county district programs and were elected to serve as members of the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors.

Verhovec noted that of the 51 past award winners, there were 21 families represented at the dinner who stood to applause as they were introduced.

Lee and Carl Kithcart were present from one of 200-year farms in the county, starting in 1808. Their farm is located on state Route 151. The family has been district cooperators since 1965.

Mike and Pamela Swickard are the owners of the family farm that got its start in 1807. The couple and their son were honored for having an Ohio Bicentennial farm and honored at the Jefferson County Fair.

The Larry Mercer family also is a third-generation farm family, and they have been district cooperators since 1955.

Joe Rozsa became a district cooperator in 1948 and served more than 20 years as district board supervisor. Raymond Piergallini served as a past board member and has been a district cooperator since 1964. His family was present to be with him and son, Todd, who received the distinguished service award.

Robert Simeral signed up as a district cooperator in 1954 and served as a district board member. A family member was unable to represent the Simerals that night.

Andrew Kostelnick received the Farmer of the Year Award in 1968 and was recognized again in 1988. Several generations of the family were present.

Bob and Paul Ramsey both served as board supervisors and were represented by family.

Walter Sutton served as a board supervisor and was recognized in 1971. His son, Jake, followed in his father’s footsteps and received the district recognition in 1996.

William A. Newburn became a district cooperator in 1963 and was named Outstanding Farmer in 1973. His son, Jim, was elected and served as a district board member. He and his family were recognized in 1979.

Ernie McConnell signed as a cooperator with the district in 1954 and received an award in 1974. Ken and Linda McConnell were present. John Varkony Sr. received the Outstanding Farmer Award in 1975. He was a cooperator with the district since 1949. His daughter, Mary Frances Phillipson; husband, Bob; and his grandson, Matt Fomenko, were present.

The Rector family served as district cooperators since 1952 and were winners in 1978. Wayne and Edith Rector were present.

The Albert Huffman farm is now into the third generation. It was represented by his daughter, Beverly Riddle; husband, Bruce; and grandsons, Bob and Bart, and great-granddaughter.

Pete Puskarich is a past board member and represents another family with several generations dedicated to agriculture. Dennis and Stella Puskarich represented them.

Adam Gruszecki became a district cooperator in 1959 and was named outstanding conservation farmer. His daughter, Anita, was present.

Richard Franckhauser was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in 2000 and serves as a district board supervisor presently. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary Catherine.

Tim and Sharon Finney were named Conservation Farmer of the Year in 2002. She is the JSWCD board vice chairman and was at the dinner with son, Clint, and his wife, Bobbi Jo. He is the soil conservation technician for the NRCS.

Charles Cleaver is a current board member. He and his wife, Wanda, received the Conservation Farmer of the Year Award in 2005.

Dave Hyde became a district cooperator in 1982 and his wife, Brenda, was in attendance with him.

Brent and Shawna Nemeth were recognized in 2009 for the conservation farmer award and were present with their two young children.

The Adam and Tina Costarella family was recognized as outstanding farmers in 2010.

John and Cathy Cavanaugh were named Conservation Farmers of the Year in 2012 and were present and sat with us at the dinner.

The Rev. William D. Cross, parochial vicar of the Wintersville Catholic Parishes, gave the invocation and was seated with the Rozsa family.

An election for two board supervisors was held with Ken Perkins and Mark Nelson, both newly elected.

Perkins is president of the Tri-State Financial Services LLC and a member of the NRA and ABATE of Ohio, Greenways Task Force, Steubenville Revitalization and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. In his financial planning, he assisted many family farms with estate planning and asset preservation.

Nelson has a hobby farm with a variety of animals. He is on the Grand Theater restoration board and AIM Women’s Center in Steubenville and wants to create walking and biking trails in the county. He is self-employed at Nelson Fine Art and Gifts on Lincoln Avenue, Steubenville.

Dave Maple donated a gorgeous mum for a door prize, which was won by Shirley Newburn.

It’s always nice to see friends I have made in my many years of covering the JSWCD events. Those in conservation and farming are great people. And I loved their farm tour/ picnics. Those ladies could really cook.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com)