Family honored for 100 years on local farm

For over 100 years, the Johnson family has been farming on Hem-View Farm on Frantz Road in Glade Township, and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, via Kathy Rapp’s office, presented them with a citation at their Centennial Celebration in July.

Dean Johnson’s grandfather, Chase, and his great-grandmother Ina purchased the farm on October 31, 1912 and started farming in 1913.

He said his great-grandfather, Theodore ‘Midnight’ Johnson would cut hemlock trees, strip the bark and sell it to a tannery in Sheffield. He would later cut the logs for wood. “They called him Midnight Johnson because he wouldn’t go into the woods until 10, and didn’t come back until after dark,” he explained.

Today, Dean, his wife Melinda, his father, Don and their youngest son Colter carry on the traditions and lifestyle. Melinda also works at Blair, and two older sons, Harrison and Marshall, follow in the mother’s footsteps in the fashion industry, Harrison in New York City and Marshall in London, England. Colter is currently a student at the University of Massachusetts, and he spends his summers working on the farm.

He said that after he graduates, he would like to spend a year working on a large midwestern farm for experience, then return to Hem-View. He said the farm is around 200 acres, but when you count leased land, they work around 500 acres. Many midwestern farms cultivate thousands of acres

Harrison came home for the centennial, and brought nine friends with him. Melinda said they stayed for four days, helping with the farm chores. She added, “They embraced the farm lifestyle, and want to come back.” She noted that Harrison, who works as a designer for Ralph Lauren wants to return to the farm in the future.

Dean said the first 15 years or so, Hem-View was a subsistence farm, growing vegetables in a large garden and raising cows, pigs and chickens. He added that his grandfather would “peddle his wares in Warren. People would rave about how tender his beef was. He would pour a quart of vinegar down the cows mouth the day before he butchered it, and he said that was the secret. He said it tenderized the cow from the inside out.”

He noted in the early days, much of the farm was covered with virgin pine stumps and his grandfather would buy dynamite in Warren to blow them out of the ground. One time when he pushed the plunger, nothing happened and nobody wanted to go check on it, so they went inside for lunch. While they were eating the dynamite blew up, breaking some windows in the house.

Don Johnson said his father began dairy farming around 1928, shipping cream to the Warren County Dairy, which was on the present site of Pelligrino Foods in Warren. He mused, “My father promised me a pony when I could milk four cows. Never got that pony.”

They continued separating and shipping cream, feeding the skim milk to the pigs, until 1945 when they began to ship milk in ten gallon cans. “We got a milking machine in 1940 which ran on a gasoline engine turning a vacuum pump. When they had electric installed, milking became much quieter.

They said that they sold their dairy herd in 2003. Dean said, “Today we’re cropping a lot of hay to horse people, and mulch hay to the oil industry. We bale 20- to 25 thousand bales a year.” The farm also produces some corn and oats.

Melinda noted that they always had draft horses for both work and pleasure riding, although before there were tractors, the horses were, for the most part, working animals.

Dean said his father, who just turned 85 still helps out, raking hay from a tractor. He was the Warren County Fair director for 30 years, the local Rural Electrification Administration (REA) director for 47 years, and is still in charge of the horse pulls at the county fair.

Melinda is a lifetime 4-H member and leader, and her kids grew up with farming and 4H. Dean has been on the Warren County Conservation District board of directors for 30 years.