ARDEN, W.Va. — Jim and Barbara Gibson and their family were honored Thursday evening during the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District’s annual Awards and Recognition Banquet for having a Century Farm.
“We’re proud of our rural roots, and we hope it continues for more generations,” Jim Gibson said. “We try to keep everyone involved in the farm. It was fun to live and grow up there, and it’s been fun for them.”
The Gibsons’ farm, Needwood Farm in the Halltown area of Jefferson County, has been in the Gibson family since 1894, and Jim is the seventh generation Gibson to own and operate the farm. He is a 10th generation Jefferson County native, having been born and raised on the Alstadt Farm.
Barbara originally is from Pike County, Kentucky. She and Jim met while they were attending West Virginia University.
After Jim graduated from dental school, they returned to Needwood Farm, where they have raised their three children, Heather, Andrew and John Thomas. They have had a dental practice in Martinsburg for more than 40 years.
They have participated in several Conservation District programs and helped with several projects.
Barbie Elliott, West Virginia Conservation Agency conservation specialist, presented the Gibsons with their West Virginia Century Farm plaque and sign.
Also honored at the banquet were George and Patty Folk for having the largest wild cherry tree in the tri-county, which turned out to be the third largest of its species in the state.
Sponsored by state Delegate John Overington, R-W.Va., since 2009, the big tree contest seeks the biggest tree of different species each year. Wild cherry was selected as this year’s species. Eight trees were submitted for consideration.
“The contest is to help people identify trees and appreciate trees, to learn more about trees,” Overington said.
Overington is assisted each year by Herb Peddicord, a forester with the state Division of Forestry. Peddicord said that the size of trees are measured by nationally standardized criteria, including total height, measured in feet; total circumference, measured in inches; and the average spread of the crown, measured in feet.
The Folks’ wild cherry is 138 feet tall, the circumference is 122 inches and the average crown spread is 52 feet, Peddicord said. The dimensions are used to calculate points. The Folks’ tree totaled 273 points. The next closest tree totaled 227 points.
“There were three really, really large trees submitted this year – trees we didn’t know existed,” he said. “The Folks have a small wood lot, about two to three acres, in the Swan Pond area of Berkeley County, that they said had never been cut. I couldn’t believe how tall that tree is.”
The Folks won a $500 cash award and a copy of Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees.”
The first year of the contest, the biggest tree was a sycamore near Ranson. Some other winners included the biggest sugar maple near Shepherdstown. It turned out to be the biggest in the state. The sugar maple is the state tree. Another year, the second largest shag bark hickory in the state was found locally.
Peddicord said next year’s species might be the beech. He said there are some big beech trees in the tri-county.
Also receiving rewards were winners of the youth and adult conservation photo contest and winners of the conservation poster contest. Heather Duncan, EPCD education outreach specialist, presented the awards.
Lin Dunham, chairman of the Conservation District’s board of supervisors, was the master of ceremonies.
The banquet was hosted by the Bill Butler family at their farm on Arden-Nollville Road in Berkeley County.
– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128, or twitter.com/jmcveyJN.