Pennsylvania Farm Bureau honors Janet Robinson with V.I.P. Award
By Steven Hoffman
Janet Robinson has received the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s V.I.P. Award in recognition of her long history of volunteer service to the Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau. The Volunteer Impact Program Award is given to individuals who have benefited the work of the Farm Bureau by getting other people involved. The CDCFB Board wanted to acknowledge that Janet has devoted untold hours to Farm Bureau work over and above the work she carried out as secretary for the very modest monthly stipend she received. She has indeed not only ensured that members are aware of the activities of the CDCFB through the newsletter and increased membership, but managed the financial affairs of the CDCFB and been the go-to person for years.
Every organization should have their Janet Robinson. She is a people person with strong management skills, excellent writing and editing ability, and heartfelt dedication to farming and the farming community. She has been at the heart of the Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau (CDCFB) since the mid-to-late 1970s.
Janet and her husband, Howard, met when they were in seventh grade and graduated from Oxford High School in 1959. She joined Howard while he studied at East Tennessee State University and when they returned to Chester County she was a stay-at-home mom looking after their kids. Howard got a job teaching in Oxford School District. In 1967 they bought a 69-acre farm next to the farm Howard’s father owned in Oxford. Janet was busy looking after their five children as well as helping out on the farm.
In the mid- to late-1970’s she was asked if she would take on the job of newsletter editor for the farm bureau. She agreed even though this meant attending Chester Delaware County Farmers Association (as it was then known) board meetings. She was provided with a mimeograph machine and produced newsletters, stuffed envelopes and mailed them for the more than 600 members. She is still editor of the highly praised six-page newsletter, but they are now printed and mailed commercially to the 7,651 membership.
It was not long before she was asked to take on the job of membership processor, and by 1979 membership had risen to 935 – the wooden plaque she was given as a result is still a treasured possession. She was voted a director of the Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau and later became the secretary. She was working full-time initially as administrative assistant to the Public Relations director at Lincoln University. She was recruited for a position in the Development Office at Winterthur Museum and found her work involved long hours that made it difficult to maintain her farm bureau duties. She found it necessary to give up her job as farm bureau secretary and concentrate on her work, family and help with the farm.
When she retired from Winterthur in 1995, Robinson was invited to become a farm bureau director again, and soon she was serving as secretary. She took on the additional job as treasurer in 2000. Meanwhile, in 1993, the CDCFA had become Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau and enlarged to include western Philadelphia County.
She gave up the secretary position in March 2014 but is still very committed to the Farm Bureau and continues as newsletter editor and treasurer. Also, as membership processor, another position which she still retains, she takes an active role in recruiting new members and maintaining the membership records. She and Howard, who serves as membership committee chair, make a formidable and highly effective team. Today the CDCFB has 7,651 members – huge growth from the 935 members in 1979 when Janet started as membership processor.
Her newsletters have covered the annual policy development meetings which have occasionally resulted in federal legislation such as recognizing that farmland tax assessments should be based on current use as farmland and not on potential value for development. This has enabled farmers to retain their acreage and not sell off large areas to cover the tax liability. This example is testament to the value of the advocacy work carried out at the grassroots level and carried up to Harrisburg and Washington D.C.
In the 1980s, dairy and mushroom farmers dominated the local board. However, today in addition to dairy and mushroom farming, the CDCFB board reflects the huge diversity with members from custom farm operations, farm markets, equine, poultry, produce, agriculture education and conservation. Today’s Chester County farmers include Amish members who play a major role in dairy and produce.
Janet admits that Farm Bureau has been a huge part of her life and has found the work to be both rewarding and fulfilling. She loves meeting people and working with CDCFB members and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau staff. There is no doubt that will continue to play a key role in making sure that farming can flourish in Chester County, and that the Farm Bureau serves its members in all three counties.