Thursday, August 17, 2017  

Farmer to the World


When I first met him, I never guessed I had just shaken hands with a truly incredible individual. This charming, tall and laid back man has been a Virginia farmer all of his life-and a very successful one at that. But, he has also travelled to thirty two countries, developed a farming business that is an outstanding model of modern farming, served as chairman of the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors, been a professional baseball player, helped to established a Little League in Middlesex County, been a champion hog breeder and been an advisor to hog farmers from around the world. He was a major force in the development of the Virginia pork industry as a breeder, producer, marketer, educator and promoter of Virginia pork. His work has impacted agribusiness around the world.
Fred Crittenden was born on Riverdale Farm in Hardyville, Virginia on November 15th, 1928. The farm was established in the 1920s by Fred’s parents. Fred worked on the farm from the time he was a young lad tall enough to reach the pedal on a farm tractor. At the age of 15, Fred would attend school all day then drive a tractor trailer loaded with produce, chickens or whatever needed to be hauled up to Baltimore then return and attend school the next day.
Fred graduated from Syringa High School and was named Valedictorian. He then went off to Randolph Macon College where he also played baseball well enough to be drafted by the Washington Senators. He attended spring training and was offered to tour with the team. Fred said he missed the farm and just could not see himself spending a life on the road with no guarantee he would be an active player. Fred came home and joined the Air Force. Fred served for two years with the Unites States Air Force 149th Fighter Squadron during the Korean War.
After his service in the Air Force, Fred returned to work the farm with his father Thomas Hancock Crittenden. With Fred running the farm full- time, his dad decided to try his hand at politics. He served as Deputy Treasurer of Middlesex County. He ran the Middlesex County Treasurer’s office for 32 years and retired at the age of 80.
One day, while visiting the Virginia State Fair, Fred attended a Pure Bred Swine Breeders event. This caused him to become interested in the business of breeding hogs. To get started, he purchased his first male and female pure bred hogs. To facilitate the best breeding conditions Fred built a climate controlled farrowing house. Soon his efforts resulted in his winning first place awards at the Virginia State Fair. Fred took his breeding business very seriously and began exporting livestock in 1966 to many countries and became involved in judging and advising livestock producers in those countries. It became not only a business but a family activity. As his children become old enough they became actively involved in raising and showing pure bred hogs.
With the hog business growing by leaps and bounds, the Crittendens were traveling to more and more countries and visiting farming areas well outside of the big cities.
Jane, Fred’s wife, recalls finding herself in the middle of a riot in San Palo, Brazil when rioters attacked the home of the superintendent of one of the W.R. Grace Sugar plantations. She was told to lie on her stomach at the back of the house until rioters could be cleared from the front by armed guards. On another trip the plane they were flying in had one of three engines fail while over the Andes Mountains. Fortunately, they were able to land safely, but Ann did not want to fly home. She said she was terrified to get back on a plane. Jane approached a group of service men back at the hotel believing they were Navy men. Her intention was to see if she and Fred could get a ride home on a U.S. Navy ship. However, as it turned out the group were members of the U.S. Air Force.
Fred said he never talked politics with the people he visited in foreign countries. However, one day a wealthy farm owner whose farm Fred and Jane were visiting in Brazil, named Felipe Lufalla, said to him, “You know Fred, I am worried about my country. It is like a watermelon. It is green on the outside and red on the inside.” He was referring to the spread of communism in Brazil.
In turn livestock producers of other countries visited Fred’s farm to learn about his methods. Fred reminisced about a visit from a group of Russians who stayed at his farm overnight. Fred said they were delightful and bought beef and dairy cattle from him. He said the CIA was all over making sure none of the Russians got away from the group. In 1972, Fred Crittenden was named International Trader of the Year by the Richmond Export-Import Club. Fred is credited with developing a high quality program which is recognized all over the world. Through his efforts, Virginia hogs have been exported to far off places like Italy, Chile, Thailand, Cyprus, Spain, Peru, Greece, Brazil, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Nigeria, Hungary, the Dominican Republic and Hong Kong. It has been said of Fred Crittenden: “Some people may say Fred Crittenden is lucky, but if you followed him very long, you would soon learn that his ‘luck’ is spelled W-O-R-K.”
In 2012, Fred S. Crittenden was inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame. The citation reads: “A native and lifelong resident of Middlesex County, Fred Crittenden has been a major force in the development of the Virginia pork industry. As a breeder, producer, marketer, educator and promoter of Virginia pork, he has made significant contributions to the industry locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. His leadership and service has been valued by his country, county and community.” He was president of the Virginia Purebred Swine Breeders Association and later Export Director of the Virginia Purebred Livestock International, Inc.
Fred, like his Dad, always had an interest in politics. He started out by becoming a member of the school board. Then he was elected to the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors on which he served for eight terms over a total of 32 years. During that time, he continued to farm along with his oldest son, Tommy. Tommy started a produce business called Heart 17 Produce which is now a thriving business. Fred retired three years ago from the Board of Supervisors, and now devotes his time once again to the 200 acre Riverdale Farm located on the Rappahannock River. Produce from the Riverdale Farm makes its way to Walmart, Sam’s Club and several supermarket chains.
Fred chose not to pursue a career in baseball but has never lost his love of the game. Fred was instrumental in getting a group of young boys together to form the semi-pro Deltas baseball team. Fred coached for many years. He is a regular at the Deltas baseball games in Deltaville and takes great joy in helping aspiring young players. The Deltas are the oldest continuing team in the state of Virginia. Fred has two grandsons who play on the Deltaville Deltas today. They can count on him being there to cheer them on.
A dedicated family man, Fred is married to a girl he met when she was just 15 years old. Jane D. Diggs said she knew from the first time she set eyes on him at Donk’s Ice Cream Parlor, he was the man she would marry. Seven years later they were married and have raised three children. They have one daughter Jenny and two sons Tommy and Jerry. They have eight grandchildren and one great grandson.
Fred Crittenden has been a lifelong member of Clarksbury United Methodist Church, where he has served many capacities including Sunday school superintendent, teacher, trustee and lay speaker.
Norton Hurd of Deltaville said, “I have known Fred Crittenden all of my life and played more baseball games with him than I can remember. He was a great shortstop and always hustling on the field. He is a great businessman. While I did not always agree with his politics, I believe he has always had the best interest of the county in mind.”
Fred Crittenden is truly unique man who has contributed a great deal to farming, swine breeding, local politics and his love of baseball. He has a fervent love of his country, loves people and believes everyone needs to use their God given talent to help their fellowman.