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A(yrshire) to Z(ucchini)

Local agriculture is center stage

Local agriculture is center stage

July 21, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

The arrival of newborn animals. The bidding war over a yummy cake.

The demolition of bumping cars. The devouring of a sign by a hungry goat. The market sale of an animal raised at home.

The annual Washington County Ag Expo always manages to provide moments of brilliance, humor, joy, defeat and reality.

The 25th annual Ag Expo is expected to attract 25,000 to 30,000 people to the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown from Friday, July 22, through Friday, July 29, spokeswoman Joanna Calimer said.

While the numbers of people who enter exhibits and visit the Ag Expo have about doubled since the first one in 1981, retired 4-H agent Norris Diefenderfer said the mission has remained the same - to educate people about local agriculture.

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Before the eight-day event begins, about 600 exhibitors have spent hours, days and, in some cases, months working to prepare thousands of entries for the various competitions, Calimer said.

Smithsburg residents Katie and Tim Frey have spent about three months getting 12 sheep, two goats, and eight rabbits ready for show.

They've trained the sheep to walk with halters, clipped the goats' hair and prepped the bunnies.

Katie, 14, also said she's been careful not to get too attached to the animals she'll part with at the market sale, which caps the event Friday, July 29.

"I get attached to the breeding ones because I know we're going to keep them. The market ones, I get them ready. I don't spend a lot of time with them," she said.

Katie and Tim, 13, practice walking their sheep around on a halter to get them ready for show but have to be careful not to walk them too much because you don't want the market sheep losing weight before the sale, she said.

Katie and Tim have entered competitions at the Ag Expo for years.

Gone is the nervousness of showing an animal for the first time.

"You know what you're doing. You don't go in there and have no clue," Katie said.

Lessons learned in preparing for the expo are not limited to the barn.

Kara Burkett and her brothers Shane and Kyle created several works of art for the Home Arts competitions.

In the process, Kara, 9, learned she can't always make everything she wants to because things take a long time and time can be short on deadline.

And that's not all.

"I learned that sometimes it's hard to do things because it looks easy, but really when you get to it, it's not that easy," she said.

For example, building a house - granted it was a two-dimensional felt house.

There are a lot of pieces to a house, from the obvious - the door - to things we sometimes take for granted - the doorknob.

As members of Downsville 4-H, Kara, 9, and her brothers will compete against other 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) members, though there are open-class competitions for members and nonmembers.

It was the Ag Expo that got the children interested in joining 4-H, said Kara's mom, Helen Burkett. Burkett will enter an American

Indian dress she made for Kara and her peanut butter fudge in open-class contests.

Burkett said the expo and 4-H provide an outlet for her kids, who love art.

Kara's brother, Shane, 14, is entering pencil sketches and a watercolor of cars, oil pastels and photography. His photography entries include a sequence showing how the 4-H club improved a garden at the Parkview Knoll Retirement Center in Williamsport.

Their brother Kyle, 12, is entering calligraphy, a sketch of a turtle, a penguin made of egg cartons, a wood picture frame he burned a design into and a cardboard and macaroni picture frame among other things.

"I like making it because it's fun. It's something to do over the summer and it's really nice because you get prize money for first place," Kyle said.

In addition to seeing the products of local youngsters' hard work, there are plenty of fun events at the Ag Expo.

New this year is a stock tractor pull at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23.

Also, the petting zoo has been expanded.

In addition to animals, there will be a vegetable garden this year to show children that vegetables can be grown in pots on a patio if they don't have the acreage for a garden, organizer Betsy Herbst said.

Children can learn how to transplant a tomato plant and take it home to grow their own tomatoes, she said.

This year the petting zoo will have a Holstein, a lineback cow and a sow who might give birth during the expo, Herbst said. There also will be a long-haired Highland heifer and baby ducks, chickens, turkeys and geese.

The wooden cow, which children can milk, returns this year and there will be a corn box with toy tractors and wagons for children to play, Herbst said.

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