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Butler family presented with $1,000 and tractor

Use of equipment a perk for being named West Virginia Conservation Farm of the Year

July 09, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Gathered Tuesday at the Butler family farm near Martinsburg, W.Va., are from left, Greg Butler, West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick, Bruce Butler Sr. (in tractor) and Bruce Butler.
By Richard F. Belisle/Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — In January, then-Commissioner of Agriculture Gus Douglass presented brothers Bruce and Greg Butler with a $1,000 check as owners of the West Virginia Conservation Farm of the Year.

On Tuesday, Douglass’ successor, Walt Helmick, presented the brothers — owners of B&G Orchards and the Butler Farm Market on Dry Run Road — with a plaque honoring the occasion and the keys to a new $60,000-plus John Deere tractor to use free for 200 hours or four months, whichever comes first.

After that, they can buy the tractor at a substantial discount, said Steve Cronin, owner of Middletown Tractor Sales of Fairmont, W.Va.

Cronin said he has been supplying tractors to annual winners of the farm-of-the-year program for seven years.

Bruce Butler, 54, said 14 John Deere tractors are currently in use on the farm.
 
“This is bigger than all of them,” he said. “We’ll put it to good use. Maybe we can work something out in four months.”

The Eastern Panhandle is well represented in the state’s conservation farm of the year program, said Sherry Duncan of the West Virginia Conservation Agency’s Eastern Panhandle District, one of 14 across the state.

Glascock’s Produce of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., won the state title in 2011, she said.

On Wednesday, a team of judges will tour Meadow Green Farm in Jefferson County. It’s in the running to win one of three area competitions that will qualify it for the 2013 state title, Duncan said.

The criteria used in choosing a winner is based on the best farm-management practices in such areas as nutrient management and reduction, and erosion and sediment control.

“It boils down to good management of land and water,” said Bob Tabb of Jefferson County, senior manager of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. Tabb spoke briefly at Tuesday’s ceremony at Butler Farm Market.
 
The Butlers have been on their land for five generations, beginning with the brothers’ great-great-grandfather, Howard Butler, in the early 1880s.

Today, the Butlers’ holdings cover more than 450 acres, including 350 acres in apple, peach, nectarine, cherry and plum orchards; more than 30 acres of pasture dedicated to an 80-animal Angus herd; and 30-plus acres of vegetable gardens that are surrounded by five miles of deer fencing, the brothers said.

Corn and tomatoes are the biggest garden crops, with more than 20 acres in corn alone, said Bruce Butler, 54.

“We start the season in April with asparagus, followed by strawberries,” he said.

Subsequent crops include potatoes, peppers, green beans, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, pumpkins, kale, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, beets, onions and melons, all of which are sold at the farm market.

The brothers started with B&G Livestock in 1984 and incorporated as B&G Orchards in 1991, Bruce said. The farm market opened in 2002.

In remarks at the ceremony, the brothers credited ancestors and their parents, Bruce G. Sr., and Virginia “Gin” Butler for “paving the road for us,” said Greg Butler, 50.

Helmick said the “Butlers have been exemplifying themselves for five generations in this part of West Virginia in a very positive, environmental way.”

He said the family “is an example of the way to do it. We need people like the Butlers to move agriculture to another level in West Virginia.”

Douglass stepped down as agriculture commissioner last year after serving for 44 years. Helmick, then a state senator representing the 15th District, ran for and won Douglass’ seat in November.

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