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Farm queen crowned without competition

May 18, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - Kelly Beckley didn't have to fret much before this year's Washington County Farm Queen contest.

Washington County Farm Bureau officials crowned the 16-year-old Hopewell road resident queen and dispensed with the contest.

Beckley was the only contestant after another girl dropped out about a week ago, officials said.

As a result, Sunday's contest at the Washington County Agriculture Education Center became a friendly coronation before about 30 people.

"Now I have to do it all at state though," said Beckley, who will represent the county at the state contest in August.

Beckley, who was crowned Ag Expo queen two years ago, said she wanted the title to give her a platform to speak out about agriculture issues. The Williamsport High School junior said she plans to speak to children and try to drum up interest in 4-H Club and other farm activities.

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"You get more attention if you have a title," Beckley said. "It gives you more opportunity to speak."

She said she is particularly interested in reaching children. Noting her singular presence in the contest - and the declining number of farms in the county - Beckley said it is critically important to get young children interested in farming.

"That's who's going to be there in the future," she said. "There's fewer farms in the area now. As farms diminish, the overall interest diminishes. I want to try to change that."

Bonnie Beckley, who chairs the farm bureau's Women's Committee, said there has been one other contest since she got involved in 1981 that drew only one contestant.

Beckley, who is a distant relative of Kelly, said the number of competitors has been dropping since the beginning of the decade.

"I think we must be in an age bracket where it's falling off," she said. "We're just not getting as many."

Beckley also speculated that interest might be declining as development turns the county's farms into housing complexes and business parks.

"I hate to see it, but I think that's it," she said.

Kelly Beckley grew up on her parents' grain farm on Hopewell Road. Recently, she said, she has begun to help parents Stephen and Karen with the farm's chores.

Beckley has raised steer and quarter horses and plans a career in agriculture. She said she would like to go to Virginia Tech and major in farm management or marketing.

"I want to do the financial end of it," she said. "I want to help people run their farms more efficiently."

As she prepares for this summer's statewide competition, Beckley will have a tough act to follow. Outgoing queen Laura Worthington finished as state runner up.

As she passed the title Sunday, the Smithsburg resident had simple advise for her successor: "Have fun no matter what you do."

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