'Retired' Dairy Farmer Takes 2013 Honors in Juniata County

9/7/2013 7:00 AM
By Tabitha Goodling Central Pa. Correspondent

The Juniata County Fair farmer of the year for 2013 said he has always been in the right place at the right time during his career in farming.

Marvin Pontius of Greenwood Township, Juniata County, was honored Sunday at the 159th annual Juniata County Fair in Port Royal.

Pontius lives on a 210-acre dairy farm and has been farming since he became a hired hand for Ted Troutman in Perry County in 1962. Years later, in 1974, Troutman rented a barn and sold cows to Pontius.

“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Pontius said.

He had been familiar with farm life since birth as he grew up on a Juniata County farm.

“That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “I was very fortunate.”

In 1978, he purchased the Cocolamus Farm, which he now owns in Juniata County. Over the years, many upgrades have been made, including an addition to the barn, the removal of a horse barn and the installation of a milking system.

He and his wife, Sue, originally lived in the farm’s homestead, which was built in 1826. In 1979, they built a new house on the property.

He and Sue and their son Brandon still live in that home while the original homestead from the 1800s is now occupied by his son Jason and wife Krista.

Pontius, who is 69, has not let setbacks keep him from working on the farm.

Two heart attacks — one in 1998 and another in 2006 — took him off the field for a few months at a time. However, he always jumps right back in.

A press release from the Juniata County Fair stated Pontius is retired but “he still goes to the barn daily to help his son do the chores.”

His first heart attack happened while he was doing barn work. Pontius let the pain and discomfort nag at him an entire 24 hours before he decided to go to the doctor. And it was at “just the right time” he managed to get to the hospital.

The second heart attack followed a double knee replacement.

To this day he can’t wait to get outdoors and work, he said.

“I love being outside and seeing the blue sky listening to the birds,” he said.

Pontius also said he has a good relationship with others in the farm community, which helps keep his interest peeked.

“The interaction with the area business and the co-ops — that is what I enjoy the most,” he said.

Pontius’ wife told him he was the winner of the farmer of the year award around 1 a.m. the morning of the presentation.

“I am very grateful,” he said of the honor.

Pontius is active in the community in other ways. He served on the church council at St. John’s (Barners) Lutheran Church in Liverpool, as Greenwood Township supervisor and on the board for the Juniata County Farm Bureau. He is also a member of the five-gallon club for blood donors.

This is the fair’s sixth farmer of the year award ceremony. Farmers are nominated based on 25 years of farming in Juniata County and additional contributions to the agricultural community.

The people who nominate them also write 300-word essays about them.

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