Shaw helps nurture tomorrow's farmers

August 01, 2005|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Tom Shaw

Age - 64.

Occupation - Retired farmer.

Hometown - Fairplay.

Where would you see Shaw? - Shaw was part of a trio - including Norris Diefenderfer and Charlie Wiles - who helped get the Ag Expo started in 1981. The three men signed their names to a document guaranteeing premium payments to fair competitors that first year.

With no idea whether they would recoup the more than $30,000 involved, it was a big gamble, but one that paid off. The first event finished in the black and each year, Ag Expo has grown.


Shaw said it was Diefenderfer, the Washington County 4-H agent at the time, who spearheaded the effort.

"It was for the kids," said Shaw, a 1958 graduate of Williamsport High School.

Shaw has been involved with the Ag Expo all 25 years. He was president for many years and stepped down in 1993. He has been vice president for the past several years.

"Whatever has to be done - I'm the one who, unfortunately, knows a little bit about everything," said Shaw with a laugh.

When he graduated from high school, Shaw said of the 62 graduates, 48 had parents or grandparents who farmed. By the time one of his sons graduated in 2000, his class of 200 had only three graduates with parents or grandparents who farmed.

"That's how much agriculture has disappeared," Shaw said. "This is what we eat. People just don't understand."

Growing up on the family farm on Jordan Road, near Fountain Rock Elementary School, Shaw spent his summers - from late July to September - doing the "show circuit." He and his older brother took their purebred dairy cows from fair to fair.

Hobbies - Restoring old tractors and farm machinery to show at antique tractor shows is one of Shaw's passions. He also enjoys metal detecting and has found the remains of four to five Civil War campsites on his property using his metal detector.

History is important to Shaw. He and his wife, Judy, are members of St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Lappans Road, where his grandfather was the minister from 1909 to 1916.

Even when he farmed full time, Shaw made time for hunting, which he said is his favorite hobby.

What does Shaw like best about Washington County? - Shaw likes the four distinct seasons and said he couldn't stand Florida, where it's hot all the time.

There was no time for travel with twice-daily milkings of their cows, but since Shaw "retired," the couple has taken trips to Alaska and Ireland.

As much as he liked those destinations, Shaw said he'd still rather be home.

"I've never found anyplace I'd rather stay," he said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

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