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Awarding a rewarding tradition

The award of longevity in agriculture given to 2 farms


 This year, two farms received awards for longevity in agriculture from the Monongahela Conservation District of the West Virginia Conservation Agency through the West Virginia Century Farm Program.

 The Haught Brothers Farm, in Monongalia County on  Mason-Dixon Highway near Wana, received the Century Farm Award. The Haught family has operated the farm for more than 100 years, and today farmer Francis “Pete” Haught raises cattle and vegetables for his friends and family.

 The Talkington United Family Farm, in Marion County on Mods Run Road near Mannington, received the Sesquicentennial (150 year) Farm Award. Current farmer, Mark W. Talkington is four generations removed from the first Talkington to work that land. The Talkington family  raises grass-fed cattle and produces grass hay.

 The West Virginia Conservation Agency, governed by the State Conservation Committee, awards farms to honor families who have been managing the same tract of land for at least 100 years. Sesquicentennial Farms, operated by the same family for at least 150 years, Bicentennial Farms,  farmed by the same family for at least 200 years, and Sestercentennial Farms, farmed by the same family for at least 250 years, are also awarded annually.

 Amy Cosco, administration specialist for the Monongahela Conservation District, said applications for awards usually are filled out by relatives of the current farmer to honor  hard-working parents or grandparents and the  tradition they are carrying on.

 “It means a lot to the community that there is someone who has been there that long and who will continue to be there,” Cosco said.

 Applicants must provide information about the farm’s history, and Cosco said the resulting compilation of documents, information and photos is a product former applicants have been very happy with.

 Most of the families previously honored have been primarily livestock farmers.

 “I try to keep 20 head [of cattle]. I cut enough hay for them,”  Haught said.

He said he used to keep sheep and over 100 cattle each season but has scaled back over the years.

 “I’ve just been here all my life, and my dad owned this farm years before I came along,” Haught said of his 99.98-acre farm.

 His daughter, Beth Stiles, submitted the application for the award. 

“When he was a boy, he lived on the farm, and he was born on an Easter Sunday morning,” Stiles said, noting her father was one of 11 children. “They raised their meat and vegetables and fruits.”

 “Dad and his brother Bill took over the farm,” Stiles added. 

The brothers worked construction by day, including working on the Morgantown Lock and Dam, and J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital and Mon Health Medical Center. After construction work during the day, the brothers worked the farm.

 Haught is retired, but his love of farming keeps him active on the family land. 

“He’s 90, and he has 20 cattle, he rides a little Kubota [tractor] up the hill every morning,” Stiles said.

 According to Stiles, Haught keeps the farm in pristine condition, spending much of the summer weed-whacking and battling multiflora roses. 

“Pete is a true steward of the land,” she said.

 “I do most of my own veterinary work,” Haught said. He noted his son comes to work on the farm a couple days each week.

 On receiving the award, Haught said, “I was a little bit shocked when I got it. … I don’t give things like that too much thought.” 

Stiles said he fashioned a stand for the award sign from an old fence post and has taken pride in displaying it on the farm.

 Talkington also raises cattle and participates in the Monongalia County Livestock Improvement Association and USDA Farm Service Agency while managing the 330-acre farm.

 The original 479 acres  were acquired by Alexander Talkington   May 16, 1838, as a bounty exchange for military service to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Part of the land was sold and some reacquired over the years.

 The farmhouse, circa the 1870s, and barn, assumed of the same era, still stand. “The bricks for the home were reportedly made on-site,” Cosco said.

 Normally, award recipients are presented with a lawn sign and honored at the agency’s annual banquet. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Haughts and the Talkingtons were presented with their awards privately on their farms. 

Cosco said they will be honored when the next banquet can be scheduled.

 Applications are due on Feb. 1 of each year. 

“If they would like to submit a packet for their farm, now is definitely the time of year to start putting that together,” Cosco said.

 “We feel it’s important to recognize the determination and hard work of those that have made it generations in farming,” Cosco said, “which is something you don’t see as much of anymore.” 

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