Bio of John Howard Farmer
John Howard Farmer grew up in Richmond and at his family summer home in Millenbeck, VA on the Corrotoman River. After serving in the United States Marine Corps, he had management careers with the former Piedmont Airlines and later with Philip Morris, USA.
While working in the corporate world, Farmer felt called to the ministry and he graduated in 1979 from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has pastored churches in Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Virginia; and during his time in Brookline MA, he was an adjunct professor, Harvard Divinity, and Boston University field ministry supervisor. For the past 33 years, Farmer has been the pastor of Irvington Baptist Church, Irvington. Wherever his ministerial service, he has always been a pastor with a heart for his community.
Farmer loves music and is a talented musician. He sang in the USMC Chorus, plays the organ and piano, and has directed many choirs before and during his ministry. He has been a guest lecturer, revivalist, and is a humorous public speaker. He has accepted numerous invitations to speak and/or entertain. Farmer is also a writer and his weekly Reflections column has appeared in the Rappahannock Record since 1993. He has also written the history of the Irvington Baptist Church, A Century of Service, 1986.
Articles by and/or about Farmer have appeared in the Home Missions Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention, Philip Morris USA Company News, the Trenton Herald Gazette, The Rappahannock Record, the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Boston Globe, Hickman’s Half-acre, (by the late Lancaster resident Harriette M. Horner) & the Religious Herald.
His annual Praying Santa ministry has afforded joy, non-profit fundraising, family pictures, and parade appearances from Washington, DC, to Atlanta, GA, to the counties of the Northern Neck.
Farmer has often said he loves living in the Northern Neck more than anywhere he has ever lived. He has spent countless hours doing whatever he could do to make this an even better place to live. He has been one of the most active grant writers on the Northern Neck, having a 30-year history with the duPont Foundation. Through his dedication and commitment, an untold number of dollars has flowed into our communities. Farmer wrote the founding grant for Dream Fields, which included a Chaplain program. He and Art Lang were relentless in getting the ball park on Irvington Road for our youth, and in 1996 Farmer was recognized with the “Dream Makers Award” by the Lancaster Youth Club. Farmer wrote the founding grant for the Northern Neck Boys & Girls Club; and he developed a $60,000 grant to support a partnership with Partners for Sacred Places, Philadelphia, to provide capacity building training and conduct the project Halo Effect for up to 10 Northern Neck congregations. Farmer was a part of the initial planning for Mercer Place, the professional apartments in Kilmarnock; and he played a very instrumental role in getting a new facility built for The Haven. Farmer established Lancaster Coalition of Churches, later known as Church Resource Services, as a ministry of the Irvington Baptist Church to assist local Churches not on the duPont Fund grant list. When this organization closed, the balance of the fund was invested with River Counties for continued assistance to area churches.
In 2015, when the Kilmarnock Laundromat burned, Farmer worked with the Baptist General Association of Virginia to establish an Emergency Community Laundry Ministry. He was able to bring a mobile laundry unit to Kilmarnock. Farmer was host pastor for the initial LINK gathering, has supported the InterFaith Service Council, the Board of the Northern Neck Hospice, to name only a few. He is also a past Lancaster High School PTA Band President as well as President of the LHS Band Boosters. In recognition of his community service, Farmer is a past recipient of the Community Builder’s Award from The Commonwealth of Virginia Masonic Order and a past recipient of the Northern Neck Rotary Club’s Community Service Award.
Throughout his ministry here, he has matured great sadness in the loss of his parents and first wife and a return to much joy in his new family. He is married to the former Hazel Ione Shelton, retired Senior VP, Virginia Commonwealth Bank. Together they have four children, nine grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Their eldest son is pastor of the Coan Baptist Church, Heathsville. Their youngest son is a PGA at Indian Creek Country Club and a soccer coach for LHS. One of their daughters is a Nurse Practitioner and the other a Tennessee homemaker.