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A feel for farm life

Ag Expo aims to educate and entertain

Ag Expo aims to educate and entertain

July 31, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Chickens will be back at Washington County Ag Expo this year.

Last year, poultry exhibitions were banned by Maryland Department of Agriculture because of cases of avian influenza. Judging for the 2002 4-H/FFA poultry contest was held after the birds had been killed before Ag Expo began.

Baby chicks will hatch and real live chickens will be judged at the 23rd annual agricultural exposition, which begins tonight with some 4-H/Future Farmers of America, as well as open class competitions.

Through Friday, Aug. 8, dairy and beef cattle will be judged. So will sheep, alpacas, swine, goats, horses, cats, dogs, rabbits and cavies - hamster-like critters.

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The local equivalent of the county fair, Washington County Ag Expo is designed to educate people about agriculture and its importance to the local economy, says spokeswoman Joanna Calimer.

The event gives exhibitors a chance to show off the hard work they've done - whether it's caring for their animals, growing their produce, sewing clothes or baking a cake.

Laura Stouffer, 18, a student at Hagerstown Community College, will show two pigs. In 4-H since she was eligible at age 8, Stouffer will enter her final show as a 4-H competitor during the event.

She says she has done "decent" in the past, taking home the Grand Champion ribbon in 1997.

Her pigs - a gilt (female) and a barrow (male) - are 6 months old and weigh about 225 pounds each. The pigs - Stouffer hasn't named them - were born in February and have been in Stouffer's care on her family's 70-acre Smithsburg farm since April.

Conditioning is important. The pigs must have proper feed, and she says she keeps them clean. She'll lead her pigs into their particular classes without benefit of harness or leash. Exhibitors can use a cane or whip to guide their animals.

Stouffer's barrow will go to market; the gilt will be bred for future little piggies, but Stouffer will not be showing in 4-H competition again.

"It will be sad at the end," she says.

You don't have to be a farmer or know how to judge a blue-ribbon pig to enjoy Ag Expo.

You can get a feel for an assortment of baby animals at the Petting Farm along with hands-on activities and crafts for kids.

Barnyard Olympics are Saturday, Aug. 2. There will be an ice cream eating contest, and Saturday's activities will conclude with a goat-milking contest featuring Washington County Commissioners President Greg Snook.

Other contests include Youth Talent, Ag Expo Queen, Little Farmer-Farmerette, Babies on Parade, ice-cream churning and the 4-H/FFA Pretty Animal Parade, during which exhibitors and their animals dress up in coordinating homemade costumes.

There will be milking demonstrations, a rodeo, a demolition derby, an antique car show and four different tractor pull competitions.

Yes, the chickens will be alive this year, and Ag Expo will demonstrate in many ways for several days, that agriculture is alive and well and fun in Washington County.

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