Six stalwarts of agriculture and forestry in West Virginia will be honored with enshrinement into the West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame Saturday, July 10, during a ceremony at West Virginia University Jacksons Mill. This years honorees are Harold G. Burke, Maurice L. Allman, the late George D. Curtin, Sr., William N. Grafton, the late Harry Lee Kesterson and Edward W. Rock.
Allman, of Philippi, spent much of his professional life working with the Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He was selected to be the agencys first Mon-Ty area coordinator, responsible for developing conservation plans. Under his leadership, dozens of projects were completed in the area, including the reclamation of hundreds of acres of eroding public lands, the seeding of barren road banks, and the development of the first Urban Forestry Plans for West Virginia. Since retiring in 1983, Allman has served as a supervisor for the Tygarts Valley Conservation District, aided in the development of a water resources study for Barbour County, and been active in a number of community and civic organizations.
Burke, of Cross Lanes, is one of the founding foresters of the Burke, Parsons and Bowlby Corp. in Spencer. He also started a wood-treating company, Appalachian Timber Services, Inc., serving as owner-operator until his retirement in 1989. A recognized visionary among wood utilization foresters, Burke served in 1972 as chairman of the committee that developed the West Virginia Forest Practice Standards, the first such standards in the United States. He led the evolution of the West Virginia Forestry Association from its early days as the West Virginia Sawmill Operators Association and its later identity, the West Virginia Forest Products Association. Burke helped organize the first Governors Conference on the Wood Industry. He is an active parishioner in the Cross Lanes United Methodist Church.
The late George D. Curtin, Sr., formerly of Clarksburg, was one of West Virginias first college-trained professional foresters, having received his masters degree from Yale University in 1916. A native of Sutton, he began his career at his familys lumber business in central West Virginia. In 1925, Curtin successfully lobbied the West Virginia Legislature for forest fire protection, initiating systematic professional forest fire protection efforts, including many of the first fire towers in the nation. He was instrumental in the evolution of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, acting as a commissioner for the organization for several years. In that role, he helped organize a West Virginia General Forestry Committee to assist the state in the development of commercial forestry as a continuing industry. He died in 1967.
Grafton, a forestry specialist for WVU Extension and associate professor in the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences in Morgantown, has spent his career promoting forest management education to all citizens in West Virginia. An active member of the Society of American Foresters and former chair of that organizations the West Virginia chapter, he has worked to promote better forest management and to expand wood industries in West Virginia. He has helped develop seminal educational resources on forest fire prevention, been a key provider of science and forest education for youth, and is a frequent guest lecturer in campuses across the state. Grafton is a recognized authority on the flora of West Virginia, especially in the New River Gorge area.
The late Harry Lee Kesterson, formerly of Parkersburg, was a leading figure in West Virginias cattle industry. He helped lead the development of the new United Livestock Market in Mineral Wells, serving on its board of directors and as the companys treasurer. Kesterson helped introduce the Limousin breed of cattle to West Virginia and was a lifetime member of the North American Limousin Association. In addition to managing his familys 350-acre dairy farm, he established a successful farm machinery business. In 1974, he was named Farmer of the Year by the West Virginia Soil Conservation Society. An active supporter of youth in agriculture, he was a member of the 4-H Board of Directors and hosted field days at his farm. Kesterson was also active with the Little Kanawha Soil Conservation District, the West Virginia Farm Bureau and the Farmers Home Administration. He died in 1984.
Rock, of Lewisburg, has provided more than 30 years of service to the State Fair of West Virginia, helping to maintain the events strong agricultural focus. The events manager since 1974, he has overseen the expansion of the fair, including the establishment of the West Virginia Farm Museum, and the construction of the Cecil H. Underwood Youth Center, Gus R. Douglass Annex and Poultry Industry Center. Rock has also promoted use of the West Virginia State Fairgrounds for a range of other agricultural and rural development events throughout the year, including a recent educational program for small food processing businesses. He is a board member of the Eastern Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce, Southern West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau and West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals. A past president of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, he is an active member of the Old Stone Presbyterian Church, Rotary International, and the Country Music Association.
The group will be honored at the Hall of Fames annual banquet Saturday, July 10, at 6 p.m. at WVU Jacksons Mill in Weston. The event is open to the public. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling any of the following: Brenda Aldridge, WVU Extension, 304-293-5691; Sherry Barnette, West Virginia Forestry Association, 304-372-1955; Randy Dye, West Virginia Division of Forestry, 304-558-2788; Robin Gothard, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, 304-558-3000; Denise Hunnell, WVU Davis College, 304-293-2395; and Bob Williams, West Virginia Farm Bureau, 304-472-2080.
The West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame is a collaborative effort involving WVU s Davis College, WVU Extension, several state agencies and constituent groups. Enshrinement is reserved for those individuals, businesses, organizations, institutions and foundations who have made outstanding contributions to the establishment, development, advancement and improvement of the agricultural, forestry and family life of West Virginia.