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Tom Shaw - Ag Expo co-founder shares knowledge

April 23, 2006|By JULIE E. GREENE

FAIRPLAY - Tom Shaw has as much to do with Washington County's past farming as he does with its future.

One of three men to co-found the Washington County Ag Expo in 1980, the retired dairy cow farmer still helps today's 4-H and Future Farmers of America students learn the trade.

"To see a kid show an animal and handle it and win. It's just a special feeling that you accomplished there," said Shaw, 65, who lives south of Fairplay.

As a 4-H volunteer, Shaw taught youngsters how to fit, clip, groom, wash, feed, clean and raise an animal the best he knows how.

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"It's quite a trick," said Shaw, who also taught youths how to keep records of their work for 4-H and FFA.

Shaw learned that trick from his father, the late Charles Shaw, while growing up on a farm not far from the Tommytown Road home he lives in now. He also learned from fitters, or groomers, on the show circuit.

"I enjoyed the show circuit so much that I wanted to pass it on to my kids and any kids interested," Shaw said.

Teaching them about raising and breeding animals also provides knowledge they can use for a lifetime.

After growing his farm to 80 milking cows and 550 acres, Shaw retired in 2000 after having open heart surgery and with none of his children interested in taking over the family business.

Shaw still works part time, helping Select Sire Power Inc. with dairy cow breeding and artificial insemination.

As a youth, Shaw gained a lot of experience and had fun traveling from fair to fair, seeing the same group of kids and looking out for one another on the show circuit.

Knowing the Great Hagerstown Fair soon would end, Shaw and Norris Diefenderfer began planning an agricultural expo about five years before it began.

To get the Ag Expo started, Shaw, Diefen-derfer and Charlie Wiles signed paperwork guaranteeing up to $35,000 in prize money for competitors in the first Ag Expo.

"I had a lot of faith in it because I was born and raised with fairs," Shaw said.

Shaw stays involved with the Ag Expo, of which he is vice president.

"I've been there so long," Shaw said. "I just do whatever has to be done."

He's been involved with the county's 4-H and FFA programs since he was a member of both groups as a youth.

He has served on the county's Farm Service Agency Committee for about five years. The three-member committee administers federal agricultural programs for county farmers.

The local committee received an award for outstanding service to Maryland agriculture from the Maryland State Farm Service Agency Committee in 2005, said Colleen Cashell, county executive director for the local agency.

"I did everything I could do to help the farmers," Shaw said. "Being a farmer myself, I know what they were up against."

Shaw also has been a member of the Washington County Farm Bureau and an officer with the Washington County Holstein Club, Maryland Holstein Association and Maryland Jersey Cattle Club.

Dairy farming is a tough profession with no holidays and twice-a-day milkings, Shaw said.

"There's not a better life on earth," he said.

Q&A

Name - Tom Shaw

Address - South of Fairplay

Date of birth - Aug. 10, 1940

Occupation - Retired dairy farmer and sales and service technician with Sire Power; works part time as artificial inseminator/relief technician with Select Sire Power Inc.

Most notable achievement - My family is my greatest achievement. When it came to my career - like racehorses, you're always trying to breed 'The Cow.' You spend your life trying to get the perfect cross.

Your proudest moment - My kids and some of their 4-H achievements (in showing animals and public speaking). I was awfully proud. ... My four grandchildren. I'm proud of them and their athletic and scholastic achievement.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - Joe Scott, his agriculture teacher at Williamsport High School, who helped him become a better overall farmer.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - His uncle, the late John Shepherd. "The Golden Rule. ... He said you just don't do anything to anybody that you wouldn't want them to do to you." Also, "Don't tell somebody how to do something unless you can do it better."

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - To breed an All-American dairy cow.

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