David Jones is this year’s Conservation Farmer of the Year


David Jones knows the value of hard work; and it’s something that he’s tried to pass on not only to his children; but also to the young men who have come and worked for him over the years.

“I’ve worked a lot of long hours and I’ve worked hard my whole life,” he says as he looks out over his farm on Vineyard Road. “I’ve farmed my whole life. I tried working out, but they always wanted me there on pretty days, and I wanted to be farming on pretty days, so it just didn’t work out.”

Because of his hard work, David Jones has been honored by the Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District as its “Conservation Farmer of the Year.” He will be honored at the SWCD’s annual meeting tomorrow (Friday) night along with Silver Star recipient Julian “Nub” Hartman.

David Jones currently farms about 1,000 acres along with his son, Kevin. His daughter, Melissa Harris, lives on one of David’s farms near Moorefield.

It’s still a family business, as it has been since David was a child helping his parents; but it’s a business that’s seeing many changes come that could spell a questionable future for agriculture.

“We raise between 50 and 70 acres of tobacco, but with the buyout, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” David Jones said. “We had bought a lot of base, and that got bought out last year. Now we’re selling on the open market, so we’ll see what happens.”

David Jones has a farm that produces hay, tobacco, and also has pasture land. He milked dairy cows for about 40 years, but got out of that about five years ago. He still has some stock cows and feeder calves, currently caring for about 60 head.

“Milk used to be three dollars per hundred, and when I quit it was 12 dollars a hundred,” David Jones said. “That’s not much over 40 years when you consider how a farmer’s costs go up. Tobacco was 66-cents a pound and went to about $2.10 — but it didn’t keep up with production costs.”

As for milking, David Jones said it got to a point where the demands of the job, twice a day, seven days a week, just didn’t justify the profits with such a small milking operation.

Like other areas of agriculture, big business is pushing the small farmer out of business.

“Our livelihood was in tobacco, and when it went, it really took us, too,” David Jones said of the changes he’s seen. “Tobacco was $2.10 with the government subsidies, and now it’s $1.50 on the open market. Costs haven’t gone down, so you try and figure what makes sense in terms of business.”

David Jones served as a member of the Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District’s board for about 10 years, so he has also lent his expertise to helping other farm operations succeed here in the county.

Saying that “farming is in his blood,” David Jones grew up as one of seven children on the Splinter’s Ridge farm that his parents worked after moving here from Kentucky when David was young.

David Jones says that his family were just poor farmers, but the values of hard work that he learned as a boy have served him well as an adult. Those values are also what he’s tried to pass on to the next generation.

“I’ve always had kids come out here and look for a job and I’ve tried to help them out,” he says. “Along with the work, I’ve tried to help those kids understand that hard work is the best way to make something of yourself. I’ve had boys out here who haven’t gotten along with their parents or others, and they come here and I work with them and they turn out all right.

“I tell them that farming has always been good to me. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s been a good life.”