Dunham is Morgan County
Growing up, Lin Dunham never dreamed he would end up a farmer or be named
Morgan County Farmer of the Year by
the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District.
True, his grandparents, Harry and Blanche Dawson, did own a large farm in southern Morgan County where he spent most of his weekends helping out.
But Dunham chose another career path after graduating from Berkeley Springs High School. He worked at Pennsylvania Glass Sand Corporation in the accounting department.
One day in 1970, the U.S. Civil Service exam was offered at the Morgan County Public Library, and he took it. He continued working at the sand mine, never suspecting he had done well on the exam.
Several weeks later, Dunham received a call offering a job at the IRS National Computer Center in Martinsburg. He took the job and it turned into a 34-year career. He worked as a Data Security Analysis on various IRS computer systems.
Yet he was never very far from the farm.
Robert Linwood Dunham, Jr. is the son of Madeline (Dawson) and Robert Dunham. The family lived in Berkeley Springs and his mother was the only woman ever to hold the office of county assessor. His father was foreman of the repair shop at the sand mine.
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His grandfather Harry Dawson had a 140-acre farm that today straddles U.S. 522, half a mile south of Cacapon State Park. In fact, Dawson donated the land for U.S. 522 back in the 1930s.
When Harry and Blanche Dawson passed away, they left the farm to their daughter Madeline and her brother, Glenn Dawson, and Madeline Dawson's half of the farm was passed down to Lin Dunham.
Dunham began farming the land in the mid-1970s, while still working shifts at the IRS.
"I would come home after a midnight shift and work all morning on the farm. It was hard work, but still relaxing. I love working outdoors," Dunham said.
He built a house on the farm in 1980, near U.S. 522, off of Wisteria Lane. His grandparents' original farmhouse and barn still stand across the highway on the west side of U.S. 522.
Dunham retired from the IRS in 2004.
"Being cooped up working thirty-some odd years inside, I never thought I would be doing this," Dunham said.
Today, he raises and sells about 3,000 bales of hay a year. Dunham and his neighbor and fellow farmer A.C. Bohrer help each other harvest their hay crops.
Farming & conservation
Though much of the cleared land on the farm is devoted to growing hay, Dunham saves acreage for conservation projects.
"I am a conservation type person," he said.
Dunham is a participant in the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife areas on private land. The program is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dunham sets aside acres around the edges of his fields to plant switch grass, sunflowers, partridge pea, and other wild flowers and grasses that provide thick cover for quail, wild turkey, rabbits, deer and other small birds and animals.
He also uses chicken and turkey litter as organic fertilizer rather than chemical fertilizers.
"You have to put some matter back in the soil, other than chemicals. It is a tremendous nitrogen builder for the hay. It definitely makes a difference," Dunham said.
Dunham is past president of the Farmland Protection Board. He also serves on the Morgan County Fair Board. He spends a lot of time helping with projects at Cacapon State Park and holds seminars for kids.
His experience with the land has led Dunham to support a limited form of zoning, with a zoning board that would protect farm land and open spaces.
"I support zoning. Farmers usually don't want zoning," he said. "Look at it this way. We don't really own the land, we are just using it. We ought to use it responsibly. Our lifespan is short compared to the land."
For being named Morgan County Farmer of the Year by the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District, Dunham receives $100 plus a sign to post on his farm. He is also eligible to compete for district farmer of the year. Winners go on to compete at the state level.