Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 West Virginia Women in Agriculture Awards. The West Virginia Women in Agriculture (WIA) program celebrates female farmers, producers, educators, and those who have worked in various ways to strengthen our agriculture community in the past and present. We laud their achievements. The 2023 recipients will be honored during a reception at the State Fair of West Virginia on Sunday, August 13.
“Today, women make up more than a third of the farmers in West Virginia, but women have been involved in agriculture in the Mountain State for centuries. As we try to replace the aging farmer, we will need more women to step up to lead operations,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. “The women we are honoring this year have paved the way for females in the industry. Each have played a vital role in West Virginia agriculture.”
The 2023 WIA recipients are:
Laurel Fork Farm
Tucker and Randolph Counties
Marsha has many talents and uses them to educate others about conserving and preserving traditional life skills and all things agriculture. Her agriculture roots run deep. For 20 years, she was a dairy goat farmer who relied upon her skills as a master artisan to make goat milk soap which she sold in dozens of stores in West Virginia. She is a master gardener and herbalist who applies that knowledge to local beautification projects, growing crops for her family, her three businesses and the public. Marsha’s unique, 200-acre farm is home to Laurel River Club B&B, Laurel Fork Farm, and the West Virginia School of Traditional Skills. She owns and operates all three with her family. Laurel Mountain Farm was named Tucker County Conservation Farm of the Year in 2023. The farm will also be featured in the Summer 2023 issue of Golden Seal Magazine. Masha has created a slogan of “Experience West Virginia,” and her enthusiasm shows through in everything she does. She was chosen by Meta, owner of Facebook, to represent small businesses at the U.S. Capital.
Marsha’s philosophy is simple. “Live a life you don’t need a vacation from!”
Although Rachel didn’t grow up on a farm, her love of agriculture blossomed over the years. In 2009, she became co-owner of Frostmore Farms. The farms are split between Dunmore where she operates a 257-acre maple operation and a 40-acre farm in Arborvale that includes U-pick blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, pumpkin, and sunflower patches. In 2013, Rachel and her husband Adam turned their hobby of making maple syrup into a business. She attended Cornell University Maple Camp, and they invested in new equipment. They have grown the business over the past decade into one of the most successful in the state. She serves as the Secretary of the WV Maple Syrup Producers Association. Rachel and Adam also raise belted Galloway cattle, chickens, and utilize a high tunnel to grow produce.
Rachel’s Recipe for Success: “Equal parts hard work, education/research, good mentors/support system and a dash of good luck.”
Cristy L. Jones
USDA -Farm Service Agency
Cristy has spent her life involved in agriculture in one form or another. Both of her grandfathers were farmers, and she was by their side from the time she could walk. They instilled in her a love of farming and showed her the benefits of rural life. After high school, she took a temporary job with the USDA-Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service (ASCS), the predecessor of the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Thirty-two years later, she’s still in that position, serving the farmers and public in six counties of southern West Virginia. She works with other agencies to develop plans that address concerns or problems individual farmers may have and ensures they understand the processes, requirements, and compliance issues. She enjoys meeting farmers and seeing their love of the land.
Cristy lives by this motto: “Each day is a gift, a fresh new start. Put your heart into it!”