Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Farmer Ben's Passion for Land Had Few Equals

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Farmer Ben's Passion for Land Had Few Equals

Article excerpt

It was the summer of 1984 when we moved into Robinson Township and made a special friend.

We thought we had found the perfect piece of land to build our dream home and raise our children. We would be the last house on a street that ended abruptly at a field of tall grasses and a shallow valley of native trees. This place would provide plenty of space for our children to play.

In midsummer of our first year there, I heard an unusually loud engine noise from the street and went to investigate. A very old farm tractor was being driven down our quiet street, and the operator parked it alongside my yard. This was the day I introduced myself to Farmer Ben.

As we shook hands he mentioned that he would be harvesting the hay from his field across the street. He enlightened me that most of the land that I could see from this very spot once belonged to his ancestors, and the owner before them was an Englishman named William Penn. His story carried his passion for this land that he inherited.

I had the feeling I was trespassing on my recently purchased land and was being evaluated to see if I was worthy to live on it. But our conversation was friendly, and I thought I was winning his trust. That was until I let it slip that I was a Catholic, and he noted his entire family is Presbyterian and if his grandfather were still alive he would have chased me off. We both had a good laugh, and I suggested he come up to our porch and have a glass of iced tea.

Ben related that he would be the last of his family to farm this land. This once extensive farm had been broken off into fragments by previous family members and sold to pay the ever increasing land taxes. Each new generation of children lacked interest in farming and found better-paying jobs elsewhere. He alone continued to harvest the hay to feed his small herd of ponies until his final days.

His tales of farm life were laced with passion for his family, his church and above all this precious land. …

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