Members of the Randy Bigelow family didn't expect to win the Blair County Chamber of Commerce's Agricultural Community Excellence Award.
"It was a complete surprise," Randy Bigelow said.
"The dairy industry has changed and become so big, it is nice someone thought a small little dairy farm in Williamsburg is worthy of the award," Twila Bigelow said.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Randy and Twila Bigelow watch their children (from left to right) Kristy, Katie and Jacob work in the family’s barn in Williamsburg.
The Bigelow family will receive the award at the chamber's annual Farm-City Dinner Oct. 29 at The Park at Morrisons Cove.
The award was started as a continuation and expansion of the chamber's successful Farm Family of the Year Award, initiated in 1970. It is an effort by the chamber to recognize all facets that make agriculture a primary industry in the county.
The humble Bigelow family - Randy, Twila and children Katie, Kristy and Jacob - are worthy recipients.
"The entire family serves as ambassadors for agriculture. Every family member is involved in some sort of community activity. They are a well-rounded agricultural family," said Stacy Hoover, chamber vice president of events and technology who oversees the Farm-City Committee.
"They are advocates for the dairy industry. Their farm just looks good, that is a great testament to what they are doing," said Sarrah Lyons, Farm-City Committee member. "The family wants to make it work, and they work hard to make it work. They are just good people."
The Bigelows operate the 365-acre Point View Farm in Catharine Township. The dairy farm is owned by Randy and Twila in a partnership with his mother Helen Bigelow.
The Bigelows have a herd of 60 holsteins and about 45 heifers and calves. They grow alfalfa, corn, soybeans, barley and grass hay, with much of it used to feed their animals.
The Bigelows produce about 110,000 pounds of milk per month, which is shipped to Land o' Lakes in Carlisle.
Randy Bigelow, a 1978 graduate of Williamsburg High School, is a life-long farmer. He grew up on his parents farm in Turkey Valley and began working on the farm at the age of eight.
"I didn't think about doing anything else. Seeing the crops grow and the cows produce is rewarding to me," Randy Bigelow said.
Twila Bigelow, a 1983 graduate of Juniata Valley High School, grew up on a dairy farm in Huntingdon County.
She graduated from South Hills Business School in 1985, worked as a medical secretary for seven years but then decided to return to the farm and raise children.
The Bigelows are active in the Blair County Farmland Preservation Program with 130 of their acres reserved for agriculture use only.
Twila Bigelow and daughters Kristy and Katie are active on the Blair County Dairy Promotion Committee with Kristy serving as Blair County Dairy Princess in 2009-10.
Kristy, 22, a senior at Penn State majoring in animal science, said serving as dairy princess was a good experience.
"I got involved to share the story of how I grew up on a dairy farm and how it sparked a passion for agriculture. Serving as dairy princess was eye opening. When you talk with consumers, that gives you a different perspective. My goal was to educate as many people as possible about dairy farming and how nutritious the products were, it was a great experience, as well," Kristy Bigelow said.
Katie, 23 works on the farm and also works three days a week at Ganister Station, an adult day care center. Jacob, 18, works on the farm.
All three children are graduates of Huntingdon Christian Academy.
The Bigelows admit finances are the biggest challenge facing today's farmers.
"The cost of production is more than what you are getting paid," Twila Bigelow said.
However, the Bigelows remain optimistic about the future.
"Farmers are very resilient, they learn to adapt to whatever comes along, we will keep trying to do that," Twila Bigelow said.