HARRISBURG, Pa. — Janet Harding Ruslavage of Clarion, Pa., received the 2011 Obie Award, the top honor of the All-American Dairy Show.
Agriculture Secretary George Greig presented the award at the show’s “got milk?” banquet Sept. 20, at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
The award was established in memory of Obie Snider of Bedford County, a founding father of the All-American Dairy Show.
It recognizes an individual who places significant value in service to the industry and community and displays high standards of conduct.
“Promoting the dairy industry has been a top priority in Jan’s life, just as it was for Obie,” said Rita Kennedy, president of the Pennsylvania Dairy and Allied Industries Association.
“She has been a pioneer for women in agriculture, from working with breed associations, raising a family while owning and operating a successful dairy and retail store, and grooming hundreds of young women to follow in her footsteps.”
Summers in the country
Growing up in northern New Jersey, just 15 miles from New York City, Jan spent weekends and summer vacations at her aunt’s farm on Maryland’s eastern shore where she fell in love with horses and dairy cattle.
After graduating from Vassar College in New York with degrees in economics and political science, followed by a dairy short course at Rutgers, her first job was with the New Jersey Guernsey Breeders’ Association to conduct store promotions, fair exhibits, farm visits and inspections, and youth programs.
Jan’s next move led her to the American Guernsey Cattle Club to travel across the country as the national representative of the Golden Guernsey milk division. She was the first woman to serve on the American Guernsey Association board of directors and was the first woman director for Golden Guernsey milk products.
It was during the 1956 National Guernsey Convention in Philadelphia when she met Gene Harding, her first husband. After they married, she moved to his 300-acre Maplevale Farm, near Brookville, Jefferson County, where they raised five children — Jeff, Jim, Judy, Jennifer and Greg — along with a herd of registered Guernseys. They expanded the farm to include a milk processing plant, dairy store, bakery, frozen food distributor and a Guernsey Maid Restaurant.
Gene serves as one of the All-American’s original board members with Obie Snider. Jan has been involved in all 48 shows, in addition to many other industry and trade shows.
In 1974, Gene died in an automobile accident, and Jan and the children continued to operate the farm and the retail business for the next 10 years.
Sold the business
After they sold the farm business, Jan took a job as the coordinator of Pennsylvania Dairy Princess and Promotion Services, Inc. She held the position for 17 years, serving as “mom” to hundreds of young dairy promoters. She continues to serve the program as co-chair of the board of coordinators.
Jan married Charles Ruslavage in 1984, a retired health and physical education professor and former football coach at Clarion University.
“Obie Snider was a good friend of our family and it is truly an honor to have our mother recognized with this award,” said Jeff Harding, the oldest of her children.