Harmison is grand marshalof the Apple Butter Parade
The Apple Butter Parade Committee has selected fifth generation farmer Philip W. (Phil) Harmison to be Grand Marshal of the parade in Berkeley Springs on Saturday, October 6.
Recently Harmison, dressed in his work clothes talked |about farming, his family, the land and life in Morgan County. He was supported by a cane due to an injury to his leg suffered while taking down a tree limb. "I still get up to feed the cows before the sun comes up over Sleepy Creek Mountain," Harmison, 72, said, as he leaned against a fence under a shade tree.
Harmison's 500 acre farm straddles both sides of Win-chester Grade Road, about
four miles southeast of the
junction with U.S. 522.
Harmison and his oldest son, John P. Harmison, farm 300 of the 500 acres, with 200 acres left as woodland. In addition, the Harmison family is caretaker for another 150 acres owned by neighbors.
"Some of my neighbors saw that my fields were greener than their fields and asked me to take care of them. You have to take care of the land. If you take good care of the land, the land will take care of you," Harmison said.
A History of farming
Harmison's great, great grandfather, Peter Shanholtz, moved from Pennsylvania in 1799 to a farm on a mountainside above the Cacapon River in Hampshire County. In those days, the government was giving away land to get people to move west of the Blue Ridge Mountains to help keep the Indians at bay, Harmison explained.
That farm stayed in the family for generations until Harmison's father, Charles L. Harmison, sold it and bought the farm on Winchester Grade Road in September 1946.
"My great grandfather, Samuel Shanholtz, wanted to be buried on the farm (in Hampshire County) and so it was stipulated in the deed when the farm was sold that the family would still have access to the cemetery," Harmison said.
A few years ago, Harmison went back and found the cemetery and the remains of the fence that had once stood around it. He put up a new fence, found the head and foot stone markers of his great grandfather's grave and replaced the headstone with a new monument.
Harmison grew up always knowing he would become a farmer. He was a member of the Berkeley Springs Chapter of Future Farmers of America and received the American Farmers Degree from the FFA in 1953. He was one of only five out of 5,000 to be selected to receive the degree in West Virginia that year.
Harmison and his wife Juanita, who he married in 1961, raised dairy cows for 40 years. They switched to raising stock cattle for beef and still do today, as well as growing corn for feed and hay for market.
"I am a died-in-the-wool farmer," Harmison said.
Today, Harmison's son John does most of the heavy work around the farm.
"If they get me up in the seat of a tractor, I can still put in a good day's work," Harmison said.
Harmison has been a member of the West Virginia Farmers Bureau for 55 years and has gone to many meetings with state legislators and made many trips to Charleston on behalf of farmers.
From 1957 to 1963, Harmison served his country as a member of the Air National Guard in Martinsburg. He worked on the F86H, one of the first generation of supersonic jet fighters. He was a radar mechanic for air-to-air combat.
"In those days, it was a fighter-interceptor squadron," Harmison said.
Harmison served 15 1/2 years on the Morgan County School Board and two years as its president, from 1981 to 1996. During those years, he had the honor of handing out high school diplomas to all three of his children.
"The people of Morgan County always supported me for election to the school board. I only missed one meeting (due to illness) in all those years," Harmison said.
"The county courthouse says my wife and I own 500 acres, but the man upstairs," Harmison points toward the sky, "really owns it."
"If you want something for breakfast in the morning, you have to put something in the refrigerator the night before. Likewise, if you want to have a good crop in 2008, you have to start taking care of the land in 2007," Harmison said, talking about bringing in good crops and raising a healthy herd.
"The average person that goes to Hoss's Steak House in Martinsburg has no idea what it takes to get that steak on the plate." Harmison said it takes three years to raise a calf to maturity to produce that choice steak.
Harmison believes in the preservation of farmland and hopes his children will preserve the farm.
"I want to leave the land better than the way I found it," he said.
Phil Harmison has been married to his wife for 46 years. Together, they have raised two sons and a daughter. They have 10 grandchildren.
Harmison's daughter Susan is a policewoman in Tampa, Florida. Their son Gregory is a lineman for a power company in Pennsylvania and son John is following in his father's footsteps continuing the family farming tradition.