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Spudfest offers fun lessons in rural heritage

August 30, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Three-year-old Amelia Robbins gingerly placed her pink flip-flopped foot onto the damp brown dirt of the potato patch. She steadied herself with one hand on a mound of soil and reached uncertainly with the other. As she wrapped her fingers around a gritty spud, a look of wonder spread across her face.

Seemingly enamored, Amelia hunkered into the dirt and began grabbing potatoes with both hands, nearly filling a plastic grocery bag before long.

Amelia and her grandmother, Susan Harns, 52, of Boonsboro, were among nearly 200 people from Washington County, Frederick County and beyond who attended the Friends of the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum's Spudfest on Saturday morning at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

Marge Peters, Friends of the Rural Heritage Museum president, said the group tries to teach how rural and agricultural heritage continues to play a role today.

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"We've found through school groups coming in (to the museum) that a lot of children don't realize where food that is on their tables comes from. I talked to a few today who did not know that potatoes grew in the ground," Peters said. "They knew french fries were made from potatoes, but they didn't know where potatoes came from. This is education."

Susan Harns said the event was "absolutely wonderful."

"Children can see exactly how food is grown and how things are done. It's wonderful for the community. Look at Amelia," she said, pointing to her granddaughter. "She's just amazed."

Before the children began digging, Jamie Baker, 38, of Big Pool, led a strapping black Percheron across the 100-foot-by-30-foot patch, unearthing starchy treasures from the moist, rich soil with a plow.

"Hut, hut," Baker called out to the horse between short smooching sounds meant to encourage it on. Baker said while a few farmers still use the horse and plow method of harvesting potatoes, most large operations have been using tractors since the late 1940s.

"It's fun showing people how it used to be done," he said.

Wayne Seifert, 44, of Hagerstown, said he was glad his children, Cassandra, 9 and Timmy, 7, got to see the old method and to pick some potatoes, too.

"This is the first time they've actually picked potatoes," Seifert said. "And maybe tomorrow, we'll have the potatoes for dinner. They don't get any fresher than this."

Cassandra and Timmy agreed they wanted the potatoes mashed with plenty of butter.

Following potato picking, eventgoers participated in a largest and smallest potato contest, then headed up to a barn for a potato chip-making demonstration, a potato figure-making game and other children activities.

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