Visit with Jim Harper March, 2006
Today I met with Jim Harper, owner of Harper Dairy Farm in Dry Fork, VA. He is at least the 3rd generation of Harper's to farm this land and thinks it has been in his family for a long time. He is 57 years old and married, with two children. Although he taught junior high school for a few years after college, he realized he loved to farm and went back to the dairy business of his father. I think his father's health at the time also played a role in when he returned to the farm. Jim seems quite happy farming and said it was in his blood.
The farm is about 650 acres, according to Jim, and has over 200 milk cows, plus 100 heifers he breeds for sale. He also plants about 200 acres in corn and 50 acres in beans. (He says he makes no money on the beans, but they alternate with the corn.) Jim also leases and farms two other parcels nearby which are owned by his brother and another relative, who both live elsewhere. Jim says the dairy business in Virginia has consolidated like most others. When he started there were 50 dairies in the state; now there are about seven.
It's beautiful rolling land straddling US 41, about 6 miles northwest of Danville, Virginia. (Jim's mailing address of Dry Fork is only that there is no Dry Fork.) Jim's land is at the southern end of White Oak Mountain which runs southwest to northeast. US 41 runs through the southern tip of the mountain area at a place called Pleasant Gap and Jim's land is just northeast of there. The suburbs of Danville, Virginia come within a few miles of this land and Jim says land prices are jumping way up. Already there are very large houses going up all around Jim's farm, but he seems to not be interested in selling any land for that purpose and seems to want to increase the size of the farm
Jim doesn't know (other than what is listed below) much about his family, except they have been on this land a long time. He seems to have built up the size of the farm and mentioned purchasing several parcels in the last few years. He also mentioned a drought several years ago that diminished his herd quite a bit, but he has been building it up since then.
He seemed quite proud of his son Adam and said, He likes to work and that's good. I met Adam and he was a very straightforward young man who looked me right in the eye as he shook my hand. Sounds like the Harper Farm might be safe for another generation.
Here is Jim's lineage, according to his recollection:
1 Samuel Douglas Harper d. abt 1951 or 1952
2 Bryant Harper (oldest son?)
2 Samuel Douglas Harper, Jr.
2 Preston Harper (school principal and sold insurance)
2 Aylor Harper (killed in a train wreck in OH)
2 Estelle Harper
2 George Ryland Harper d. abt 1986 Moved to a small 5 acres and house nearby in later years.
+Ruth Robertson, dau. Of Kit Robertson and ??, d. abt 1980
3 George Ryland Harper, Jr. (didn't want to farm, worked for a natural gas company)
3 James Robertson Harper b. June 17, 1948 (Jim)
+Frances Powell b. April 20, 1950
4 Leah Harper b. Dec 23, 1979, married, living in ??
4 Adam Harper (who farms with Jim in 2006)
+?? 2nd wife of Samuel Douglas Harper
-Bill Hall, March, 2006