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Big Martha a hit at annual Farm Fest

September 13, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The biggest attractions for the 900 fourth-graders who toured a dairy farm Thursday was the hay ride and Big Martha, a cow with the proportions of Babe, Paul Bunyan's blue ox.

The 12th Farm Fest is being held this year at Ricecrest Farms four miles south of Chambersburg on Church Road. The 600-acre farm is owned by brothers Fred E. and Dale Rice.

The students came from all of Franklin County's elementary schools and three private schools. Another 900 youngsters will visit the farm today, said Anna Swailes, who with her husband, William, chair the event every year.


The event is held to teach youngsters that their milk and groceries don't just come from the grocery store, she said.

"About 98 percent of the population of this country has no clue what farming is all about," Swailes said. "The best ones to show them that are those who do it."

The Swailes own a farm in Metal Township.

"We really believe in the program," Fred Rice said. "It used to be that everybody's uncle or grandpap had a farm. That's not true today. A lot of these kids have never seen a farm. We want to show what farming is really like, to give them a true picture."

The kids milked cows, petted calves, saw how crops and vegetables are grown, learned about soils and the history of farming from horse-drawn days to modern farming methods. They learned how a veterinarian treats cows.

Some saw a calf being born, Swailes said.

Among the speakers were representatives from the Franklin County Conservation District, Cooperative Extension Office, Dairy Promotion Commission, Future Farmers of America and 4-H clubs.

Some students said their favorite was Big Martha, a Holstein who tips the scales at 2,200 pounds. Martha and others from the Rice's herd of 200 registered Holsteins each year provide up to 500 embryos that are shipped around the world to propagate herds, Fred Rice said.

"She is one big macho cow," said Tommy Hogue, 9, a fourth-grader from Hamilton Heights Elementary School near Chambersburg.

Classmates Zach Holden and Rachel Tardosky said they liked the hayride best.

Franklin County is second only to Lancaster County in the number of dairy farms, said Gere Wingert, head of livestock and agronomy for the Franklin County office of Penn State University's Cooperative Extensive Office in Chambersburg.

There are 101,000 dairy cows in Franklin County in Franklin County and 255,500 acres in production, he said.

Farm Fest will be open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

From Chambersburg take Pa. 316 south four miles to the blinking light at Grindstone Hill and Church Roads. Go left on Church Road for two miles to Ricecrest farm on the right.

From Waynesboro go north on Pa. 316 for 10 miles to the blinking light then right on Church Road.

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