If there has ever been a reluctant winner of a prestigious award, it is Jim Crawford.
Crawford, 69, who has been farming in Sinking Valley for 45 years, will receive the Blair County Agricultural Community Excellence Award Tuesday at the annual Farm-City Dinner at The Park at Morrisons Cove in Martinsburg.
Crawford said he was surprised to be selected for the award, which was started as a continuation and expansion of the Blair County Chamber's successful Farm Family of the Year Award initiated in 1970.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Jim Crawford works on his farm in Sinking Valley on Monday. He will receive the Blair County Agricultural Community Excellence Award Tuesday at the annual Farm-City Dinner at The Park at Morrisons Cove in Martinsburg.
"I never expected to be considered for the ACE Award. I didn't think that I would have what they were looking for in a recipient," Crawford said. "I am certainly appreciative of it but I didn't think I had contributed sufficiently to the agriculture community in Blair County."
Chamber Vice President of Events and Technology Stacy Hoover disagreed.
"Jim Crawford was selected for the 2011 ACE Award based on his dedication to the agricultural community," Hoover said. "Being a farmer most of his life, he is now chair of the Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.'s Ag Committee. Jim also still helps with farming whenever anyone needs a hand."
The humble Crawford said his family has been involved in farming in Sinking Valley since the 1780s when who he calls the "original James Crawford" purchased acreage from John Penn, William Penn's son.
"I am a descendant of one the original settlers of Sinking Valley," Crawford said.
After graduating from Tyrone High School in 1960, Crawford went on to Penn State and earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics and rural sociology.
Crawford said his parents James and Kathryn - she was a school teacher - encouraged him to get a college education.
After graduating from Penn State in 1964, Crawford had several job offers but decided to return to the family farm.
In 1965, Crawford and his wife, Bonnie, purchased the neighboring farm.
Crawford said he always planned to be a farmer.
"As people say, 'It is in your blood.' Growing up on the home farm, it was my intent, what I wanted to do," Crawford said. "We were able to get the farm and we were able to make it work. It is what I enjoy doing."
Crawford bought the family farm from his mother in 1978 and ran the neighboring farms until 1990.
He sold his dairy cows in 1990 and has had tenants that had their own herd of cows.
"I grew the crops and sold the tenants what they needed to feed their cows until 2006," Crawford said.
Crawford sold the family farm to his brother Tom in 2006, and in 2009 sold what he calls Farm 2, the farm he and Bonnie bought, to Todd Lewis.
Crawford remains on the farm as he has a lifetime living-rights agreement with Lewis for the farm house.
Crawford continues to help out on the farm as needed and also works for Long's Field Service, a custom planting and harvesting business.
Crawford credits his survival as a farmer to being conservative.
"I am not the first to try the latest technology. I've never got too deep in debt with machinery," Crawford said. "I take it sort of slow, evaluating something new and different before I jump into it."
Crawford said he also learned "don't be greedy, be giving."
"My family and I have been blessed, that can be traced back to not being greedy. Not being all for yourself, giving as you can. I realize we can't help everybody but we can do what we can and where we can to help others," Crawford said. "I try not to focus on myself."
Crawford has found plenty of time to help others and serve the community.
He has served on the Tyrone Area School Board for 28 years, many of those years as vice president.
"My mother was a teacher. My dad and mom always promoted education. I saw the importance of education," Crawford said. "I feel it is important, and that is the reason to serve on the school board."
He is also a member of the Tyrone Township Planning Commission and is active in the Sinking Valley Presbyterian Church, where he is clerk of sessions and an elder.
He is first vice moderator of the 49-member church Huntingdon Presbytery and will be moderator for 2012.
He is proud of his volunteer work at Camp Krislund, a Presbyterian church camp near Madisonburg.
"It makes me feel good to give back to the community," Crawford said.
Crawford has no plans to slow down.
"I have been blessed with good health and enjoy what I am doing here and at Camp Krislund," Crawford said.
Crawford has some advice for young people who may want to get into farming.
"Anyone who is interested in farming needs to realize he or she needs a good work ethic. It is not something where you work 8 to 5, five days a week - it is sort of 24/7," Crawford said.
"They need to be prepared to give the hours necessary to do the best job they can. You need to give the time required to do a good job."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.