by Lisa Tome
Ruth Ann Johnson picked the perfect year to be feeling a little under the weather.
Johnson normally misses the annual Calvert Grange holiday dinner because she is busy with other activities. This year, she was able to attend with her husband, Philip, because she had been ill.
The Johnsons, owners of Walnut Springs Farm, and tireless community servants, were honored as the People of the Year by the grange on Tuesday, December 1. The presentation included a slide show with their life highlights complied by their daughter, Molly Brumbley and tributes from family and friends. The grange presented them with an engraved pottery piece.
Before being surprised as the people of the year, Philip urged his wife to attend the dinner with him this year. Most years, she is at practice with the choral society. "He said 'you need to get out'. And there's lots of good food and you get to meet people that you haven't seen," she said.
The couple were high school sweethearts since Ruth Ann's 10th grade year. She graduated from University of Delaware. He studied agriculture at Penn State. They have three children, all of whom are in ag-related fields, and six grandchildren. She retired after working at Cecil County Public Library for 28 years.
He works at their 20 acre small fruit farm where the public is invited to pick their own each season. They sell strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, and rhubarb. The farm will mark 40 years of small fruit sales in 2016.
Prior to the small fruit farming, Philip had other forays into various types of farming including 20 years as a hog farmer.
He even taught vocational agriculture for a year, but it wasn't his forte'.
"I wasn't making enough money and we had two children. I said if I'm going to starve, I'm going to starve farming," he said.
In addition to running the farm, they are active in the community. She has served as the choir director at Moore's Chapel for 51 years.
He has been active with 4-H and the Cecil County Farm Museum. He has also worked to bring new technology to the farm. He was also Cecil's Soil Cooperator of the Year in 1981. He is also a Gideon.
They are both involved in the North American Strawberry Grower's Association and have traveled across the nation giving talks. They have also hosted Family Day on the farm and farm tours. And have hosted events for the farm museum.
He is known for his wooden furniture making and she for her baking.
Tim Beardsley is a local minister. He said that the Johnsons supported him when his parents divorced and led him to the Lord. "They shared their love of God with me and now I pastor a church," said Beardsley.