The Family Farm
The Riley family history starts in Ireland with a mother and three boys who came across the ocean to find a better life during the Irish Potato Famine around 1845. The story goes that someone sent for them and they had to work for a number of years on a farm to pay for their passage. I don’t know if they were potato farmers back in Ireland, but I love potatoes, so I like to hope that they were.
The mother and the brothers eventually ended up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. When the three brothers were old enough they eventually left the valley and went different directions. They promised each other that they would name their sons Joseph, James or William so that their descendants could know each other when they would later meet.
When they parted ways, one brother settled in an area that would eventually become Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Our side of the family has continued to farm the valleys and mountains of this agriculturally rich country and Germany Valley, in Pendleton County, where my father spent his summers as a boy helping his grandfather Flynn. Pa Flynn was also a Pocahontas County school superintendant, and it was during his tenure that all the one room school in the county starting aligning their educational standards. My grandfather, a math teacher, and grandmother, who taught generations of Green Bank first graders, spent their summers way out on the farm, tending the sheep.
Stompin’ Crick Farm was originally purchased in 1971, when I was five years old, by my mother and father. We raised beef cattle and sheep, made lots of hay and always had a huge garden. I still have my grandfather’s Ford 8-N tractor, which is the first piece of motorized equipment purchased for farming in the Riley family. I rebuilt it in high school, as part taking ag classes, including ag mechanics (which is still my favorite class to teach.)
My father has farmed since he was a child. I am lucky to still help him farm, and he helps me.
Our meat business is a small part of the great family legacy handed down to me through generations. My father and mother are in their seventies, and they still farm nearly 60 cows and 80 ewes. I call in the cows just as my grandfather did and my father does. My grandfather knew a lot of farming practices that the sustainable agriculture movement is just starting to get back to.
After growing up on the farm, earning a B.S. in Agriculture Education, an M.S. in Agriculture, teaching Ag for 17 years, having four children of my own, and now a middle school principal, the greatest joy in my days remains the farm.
Here’s hoping the Rileys keep farming for another 150 years.
Happy growing, and very happy eating,
Joseph William Riley
Educator and Farmer
Egg production and sales
Scientist and Gardener
2138 Stamping Creek Road, Route 39 West, Hillsboro, WV 24946