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Tell Us Your Story: Farming Susquehanna River Islands

Jun 06, 2016 03:02PM ● Published by Melanie Heisinger

White's Island, by Gordon Wenzel

Gallery: Tell Us Your Story: Jim Inch [7 Images] Click any image to expand.

By J.F. Pirro

 

Jim Inch’s story began in Snyder County before his father Robert rented a house, then owned by the power company, on White Island.

In 1944, Robert swapped five mules—his farming power source—for a down payment on an International Harvester F-12. He planted 65 acres of feed corn, cultivated it three times, hired men to hand-husk it, then paid them with corn, leaving plenty for his corncrib.

Later that season, he learned that his down payment covered the tractor, and he even received a $200 rebate on it. The next year, he planted 36 more acres of corn on White’s Island.

“Dad said right then that he should have quit farming while he was ahead,” says Jim, 81. “You can be rich one day and poor the next in this business.”

      

Fast-forward

Jim Inch

Jim, though retired, still works seven days a week. He lives on another farm owned by Roy Adams & Son, Inc., which now has the unique farming rights to White’s and three other islands in the Susquehanna.

Tammy Wolfe, Roy Adams’ daughter and office manager in Sunbury, PA, says most don’t realize how hard farmers work, where food comes from or how technology-based today’s farming is. “We’re proud of that work and proud to be a part of it,” she says.

 

Not an Easy Life

Farming White's, Big Hoover’s, Little (or Mason’s) Hoover and Schlegel’s islands three miles south of Herndon in Dalmatia has been tough territory to hoe. The Pennsylvania Game Commission owns the first three islands: Adams owns Schlegel’s. It’s a unique public-private partnership. Weather and other variables are a challenge. The river dictates how you farm; high spring water means a late start. Harvesting can come early, before autumn rains make the river impassable. In 2011, the operation lost 700 acres of corn to high waters. “If the water gets into the ears, you can’t use it,” Jim explains.

On the bright side, the island soil is like gold—“black gold in the middle of that river,” Tammy says.

 

The Big Picture

Overall, Roy Adams & Son farms 1,800 acres of feed corn, 800 acres of soybean, 350 acres of wheat, 200 acres of barley and oats, and fall cover crops, in Northumberland and Snyder counties. There are two grain operations and storage facilities. It owns or rents 73 farms.

In 1968, Adams bought the main farm, a 120-acre property. Once called Roy Adams Farms, he incorporated in 1988. Roy, 71, is president. His son Tony is the secretary-treasurer, and Tony’s son Jerid is the company’s first third-generation employee.

Harvesting feed corn

There are 170 tillable acres on White's Island, which Adams owned between 1974 and 1989. There are 210 tillable acres on Big Hoover's Island and 50 fertile acres on Little Hoover's Island. Schlegel’s Island has 45 usable acres. “We don't just let that land lay,” Jim says. “We farm it."

The PA Game Commission requires Adams to plant feed corn so there’s post-harvest fodder for waterfowl. Fifty percent of the company’s production, and 30 full-time employees, depends on the agricultural production on those four islands.

Jim—“Butch” or “Big Daddy,” as he’s called—has worked for Adams for 35 years. The property he tends, the Harris Farm, has a herd of 125 beef cattle and Holsteins.

 

On White’s Island

On White’s Island—once Native American Indian territory—the only signs of former human habitation are the shell of Jim’s house and two picnic pavilions. The barn has collapsed.

The railroad once crossed the Susquehanna here, carrying coal from Shamokin to the canal boats at Port Trevorton. Shadows of the stone piers of the long-gone bridge remain in grassy mounds. Inland, the unplanted railroad bed splits the two corn fields.

“It’s like you’re in a world of your own,” says a nostalgic Jim. “As one of six siblings raised on the island, we felt like little [American] Indian children.”

Susquehanna River waterfowl feed on seeds left behind. Photo courtesy of PA Game Commission.

The island survived floods in 1936, 1972 and 2011. In ’36, the water rose to the first-floor windowsills of Jim’s house, and in ’72 went halfway up. Sometimes the water table was so low the family’s Maxwell or Hudson car crossed the river.

“If I ever won the lottery I would have bought this island and restored that home,” Jim says. “When I heard we were leaving, I lay in the grass and bawled and kicked.”

The depth of the river varies on location and rainfall. Teams enter below the fire company in Herndon to cross and plant corn, working from high to low ground as the spring soil dries. With modern equipment, Tony’s planted White’s in a day; Brian’s planted Mason Hoover’s in a day. “If my father saw one of these tractors cross one of those fields,” Jim surmises, “it’d take him a week and six mules to do what now takes a day.”

Each season, whether or not the effort is rewarded depends on the weather: “Sometimes yes and sometimes no,” Jim says. “You can have a great crop and you’re counting your money, then it dries up or gets flooded.”

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    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/12/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Adobe InDesign

    02/12/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Adobe InDesign DES 154, Monday & Wednesday, January 29 - February 28 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit,...


  • Illuminated Letters

    02/12/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Illuminated Letters CE 206, Monday, January 29 - February 26 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $195 Matt Chapma...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/13/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13

    02/13/2018
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13 YS 40, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m....


  • Books Undone

    02/13/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homeschool Physical Education

    02/13/2018
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Students engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity through a variety of enjoyable game...


  • Business Practices for Creatives

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Business Practices for Creatives DES 200, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., 1 c...


  • HTML5 & Website Design

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    HTML5 & Website Design DES 155, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit, $475 ...


  • Drawing (Portrait & Figure)

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Drawing (Portrait & Figure) CE 91, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Evan ...


  • Intro to Social Media Marketing

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media CE 238, Tuesday, January 30- March 6 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $215 Ju...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/14/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Homeschool Hangout

    02/14/2018
    11:00AM — 01:00PM

    Every other Wednesday 11-1p.m. during the school year beginning Jan. 17th-Apr. 25th.Parent/child ...


  • Books Undone

    02/14/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Adobe InDesign

    02/14/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Adobe InDesign DES 154, Monday & Wednesday, January 29 - February 28 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit,...


  • From a graffiti artist in the favelas (slums) of Brazil raising awareness about domestic violence...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/15/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Books Undone

    02/15/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • iMAKE

    02/15/2018
    04:30PM — 05:30PM

    This a-la-carte class series offers both art and science projects for children ages 6-12. String ...


  • Intro to Social Media Marketing

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • Intro to Video Production & Short Film

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Video Production & Short Film DES 178, Thursday, February 1 - April 5 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.,...


  • Design Principles & Typography

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Design Principles & Typography DES 150, Thursday, February 1 - April 5 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credi...


  • The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition CE 239, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $...


  • Oil Painting

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Oil Painting CE 169, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Michael Allen Ex...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/16/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Music Together Family Classes

    02/16/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Runs for 8 weeks on Fridays Session A: 10-11am Session B: 11:15-12:15pm Music Together® is a f...


  • Books Undone

    02/16/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homework Happy Hour Tutoring

    02/16/2018
    03:00PM — 04:15PM

    Fridays 3-4:15 p.m. during the school year beginning Feb.9th.  Bloomsburg University Education...


  • The 5th annual Destination Blues Music Festival comes to 18 venues in Columbia and Montour Count...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • chttp://engage.pcad.edu/winter2018

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Young Artists Academy for Grades 6.7.8.9 YS13, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10a.m. - 12 p.m....


  • Youth Studio Art I for Grades 1.2.3

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Youth Studio Art I for Grades 1.2.3 YS11, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., $1...


  • Youth Studio Art II for Grades 4.5

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Youth Studio Art II for Grades 4.5 YS12, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10...


  • Intergenerational Drawing (8 & up)

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Intergenerational Drawing (8 & up) CE 189, Saturday, January 27 - March 3 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., $1...


  • Short Story Writing

    02/17/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Short Story Writing CE 208, Saturday, January 27 - March 3 (no class on February 24) 10 a.m. - ...


  • Sit Next to Me

    02/17/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a positive, interesting, heartfelt, sad, weird, and even funny sharin...


  • The 5th annual Destination Blues Music Festival comes to 18 venues in Columbia and Montour Count...


  • Books Undone

    02/18/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • The 5th annual Destination Blues Music Festival comes to 18 venues in Columbia and Montour Count...



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