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Youths sell animals at Ag Expo & Fair's Market Animal Sale

July 23, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

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Outside the main show ring at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center, 5-year-old Katelyn Toms heaved a deep sigh and reached up, bleary-eyed, to stroke the neck of a brown-and-white Hereford steer.

After months of helping wash and feed the steer named Impala, Katelyn knew once her cousin led the animal into the ring, it would be on its way to its destiny as someone's dinner.

"This is the hardest part," the girl's mother, Kristen Toms, said.

Katelyn's cousin, 12-year-old Matthew Burcker of Williamsport, was one of more than 50 local 4-H and Future Farmers of America members who raised rabbits, swine, steer, lambs and goats to be auctioned Thursday at this year's Market Animal Sale.

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The sale is the culmination of months of hard work feeding and tending to the animals. For some of the participants, one of the biggest challenges is not getting attached.

"Don't get emotional," Andy Axline of Frederick, Md., whispered to his friend, Kiley Slimmer, 13, as she waited in line to show her hog, Lily. "Smile."

Kiley nodded and flashed her braces to the crowd as she prodded Lily around the ring. It wasn't until later, as she prepared to part with her steer, Super Duty, that tears began to run down her cheeks.

"It's just hard," Kiley said.

She already had taken Super Duty to three different shows. At the last one, in Howard County, he won champion Limousin.

"I'm gonna try not to look at him after I sell him," she said.

Tears were impossible to hold back for Katelyn, too. She hid her face against her mother's shoulder while the woman explained Impala was Katelyn's favorite because he is timid and lets her lie on his back. Sometimes, while Katelyn sits on a fence, Impala licks her face, Kristen Toms said.

"She knew from day one" that the steer was being raised for meat, "but it doesn't make it any easier," Kristen Toms said.

4-H veteran Tim Martin, 19, of Smithsburg, said parting with the animals gets easier with time.

"You learn to accept it," he said.

Tim Martin raised this year's grand champion hog, and his brother, Justin Martin, 11, raised the reserve champion.

Their father, Steve Martin, said the experience had taught his sons and the other participants a lot about responsibility.

"It's not a glamorous project, but they work hard at it and do their best every year," he said.

Starr Ramsey, who runs a horse farm near Sharpsburg and sells feed to many of the 4-H members, said she was very impressed with this year's animals.

Ramsey bought three hogs and said she planned to buy some lambs and donate them back to the children who raised them. She usually buys from the ones who get their feed from her.

"They go through a lot of hard work and the kids are very dedicated," she said.

Another especially proud buyer was Rick Toms of Hagerstown, who bought a 238-pound hog raised by his nephew, Preston Toms.

"We're going to have a lot of pork chops," Toms said, adding he planned to share some with his nephew.

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