With two dogs, four cats, several cows and 620 acres across several properties, Jim and Janet Archer are farmers through and through.
The family behind Fawn View Manor Farms, a prominent Harford dairy farm in Pylesville, was honored with the 2011 Farmer of the Year award from the Harford County Farm Bureau Saturday at the Level fire hall in front of politicians, peers and fellow partners in agriculture. Fawn View, a small, family-run business, is one of less than 30 dairy farms left in the county, and have no plans of going anywhere any time soon.
Janet Archer, 66, said she was "deeply touched" when she found out she and her husband won the award that night. Since the high school sweethearts have been together for 51 years and have worked as a team since the beginning, the bureau jointly awarded the two.
The retired teacher, who was raised on a poultry, beef and crop farm in Stewartstown, Pa., and is a member on the Farm Bureau board, is now full-time farmer alongside her husband of 45 years, who, she casually mentioned, is no stranger to 17-hour days. Jim Archer has been a farmer all of his life, growing up on his parent's farm outside of Fawn Grove, Pa. It's this dedication and being deep-rooted in the farming culture, she explained, that the bureau looks for in its annual honoree and why they were chosen.
"Agriculture has been great for us," Jim Archer, 67, said. The two have been working on the farm together for 46 years, through prosperous times and incredibly difficult times. In 2009, when milk prices plummeted, was the hardest year the family has faced so far.
"It took everything we had to survive that year," Janet Archer said, commenting that money coming in during that period was cut in half. "The farm had to come first that year, and that's why we were willing to use all we had saved up" Despite the struggles, she went on, the family kept repeating, "We love this life."
The land and the animals are always on the forefront of the Archers' minds, and that's part of the reason why the family has been so emotionally affected by allegations from national organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), that the American farmer mistreats their livestock.
The Archers made it clear that not only would it be morally wrong for them to hurt the animals they spend so much time raising, but it would also be bad business to harm their sole livelihood.
"If you don't respect your animals," she explained, "you don't get respect back." That respect echoes through their everyday life, as well — the family tries to eat locally and support local business as much as possible.
"We support small business because we know as a small business how important it is," she said. From what it sounded like at Saturday's banquet, Harford's businesses support the Archers, as well.
When her husband addressed the crowd during the award ceremony, Archer recalled that he simply said, "I love being a farmer" and paused to let the sincerity of his statement sink in.
Archer said she saw familiar faces there that night, including Sen. Barry Glassman, County Council President Billy Boniface and County Councilman Chad Shrodes, whose property borders Fawn View Manor.
"Our family is very proud of us," she said. The Archers' children and grandchildren all help out on the farm. "Our family is just great." The family also has four full-time employees working for them, including Joe McCoy, who grew up on the farm while his father worked there.
The couple shows no signs of slowing down, either.
"Most people ask why we do cattle. Well, I like cattle," he explained. "There's no reason to quit. This is my hobby and everything else."