He takes an honest look at faith, farm, family and politics
Art and Joyce Hershey talk about Art’s book From the Farm to the House at their home near Cochranville, Chester County, Pa.
By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine
COCHRANVILLE, Pa. -- When Art Hershey set out to write From the Farm to the House, he wanted to leave a legacy for his children and grandchildren. Five years and 196 pages later, he accomplished that, and more.
Published in July 2013, the book is drawing attention for the way it spans Hershey’s boyhood recollections growing up on his father’s rented farm along the Pequea Creek in Lancaster County all the way through starting his own dairy farm with his wife Joyce in Chester County, and later bringing son Duane into a partnership as he headed off to Harrisburg for a long and storied career representing Pennsylvania’s 13th District in the State House of Representatives.
“Some of my neighbors have bought the book for their parents and I hear a lot of comments from folks saying it reminds them of their own childhood growing up as we did,” Hershey said in a phone interview Wednesday. “There’s a good bit of local history here and I hear from locals who know the places I refer to in the book.”
But Hershey’s biggest message is to “let people know you can come from very modest beginnings and if you work hard and do some planning and seek counsel from those who have the information you need, you can accomplish great things.”
From the Farm to the House is a story about a young boy growing up in modest beginnings, reading and dreaming of being on his own farm, being profitable, and being able to affect policy; then seeing that dream become a reality.
“This book documents the steps it took to make my time as a state representative a reality,” Hershey explained. He recalls as a child seeing soil erosion and how “we were losing too much soil from our farms.”
This childhood observation followed him into adulthood and became a passion for Hershey on his own Ar-Joy Farm near Cochranville, Pa., and led to what became his greatest satisfaction as a legislator and chair of the ag committee: the sponsorship and passage of the Growing Greener Bill and the ACRE Bill.
Growing Greener was a 2-year turnaround that was in the making conceptually over many years beforehand. The ACRE bill took six years to accomplish and is aimed at reducing and resolving the conflicts between farming progress and township concerns in a more systematic and methodical way by setting standards statewide for setbacks, conservation practices and odor control.
Hershey details how his interest in policy developed after joining the Farm Bureau. Then, when son Duane was out of school and looking to take on more responsibility at the farm, the seat to represent the 13th District opened up, and Hershey seized the opportunity to run for office.
In concert with this change in life, father and son set out the terms of a partnership. The book details the approximately 7-year process of their partnership becoming a farm succession plan, resulting in Duane and his wife Marilyn owning the animals, machinery, and ultimately the farm.
“God gave me a good memory and people kept telling me: ‘You should write a book,’” Hershey said.
While the first couple chapters deal with the history and genealogy of the Hershey family, as well as growing up on a small rented farm without indoor facilities or running water, it progresses to become a study in the evolution of farming practices, including Hershey’s coursework in rural leadership through Penn State and his travels to Spain, England and the Netherlands to study land use affecting future farm policy as a legislator.
The book also highlights the family’s faith. “We need our faith to sustain us,” he says. “When things around us seem to be falling apart, we need to realize our loving God is still there and will help us through it.”
The book is peppered with stories of farm and family and the Hershey’s time in the House of Representatives as he loved “being able to cut through some of the red tape” for his constituents.
In fact, Hershey spoke Tuesday night at the East Fallowfield Historical Society where the topic was his book. An avid reader, Hershey said: “The only way to keep learning is to keep reading and visiting with people who have more information than you do. That’s how we make a difference in our society.”
Hershey said the book makes a nice Father’s Day gift and is available at Masthof Press, 219 Mill Road, Morgantown, PA 19543-9516 and at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society at 2215 Millstream Rd, Lancaster, PA 17602 (Phone 717-393-9745).
From the Farm to the House may also be ordered directly by calling Art Hershey at 610-593-2053 or writing him at 1589 Althouse Road, Cochranville, PA 19330. The cost is $20 per copy, including tax, plus $4 shipping.