Washington County Homemakers discuss past, future of farming

June 27, 2013
  • The Washington County Homemakers held their annual meeting June 10 at the Ramada Plaza. Pictured, from left, are Helen Thomasson, annual meeting chairwoman; Terrie Shank, guest speaker; and Brenda Finch, president of the Washington County Homemakers.
Submitted photo

The annual meeting of the Washington County Homemakers was June 10 at the Ramada Plaza.

The theme for this year’s meeting was “Farming in Washington County, Past-Present-Future.”

A PowerPoint presentation was given by guest speaker Terrie Shank of Palmyra Farms. The Shanks are a fourth-generation farming family, with a fifth-generation granddaughter born June 12.

Shank recently retired from teaching agriculture for 32 years in Washington County schools, with the last 17 years at Clear Spring High School.

Shank described how the area began as one of the largest grain producers in Maryland and the East Coast, with dairy and orchards also significant producers.

Washington County expanded into other areas of farming and began to have greater concern for the environment. With the increase in regulations, some farms left.

There also were more educational opportunities for agriculturists through agriculture extension courses such as Annie’s Project-Women in Agriculture; canning and preserving classes; farmers market seminars; wind and solar workshops; and 4-H for youths.

Concerns for the future include nutrient management plans, water implementation plans, zoning ordinances and increases in the gasoline tax.

Some of the new initiatives include raising meat and dairy goats; backyard poultry; small farms with diversification; greenhouses; vineyards and wineries; direct marketing with farmers markets; pick your own fruits; and winery tours.

Farms will continue to diversify to support their endeavors. Washington County has more than 4,000 agriculture-assessed properties. More than 1,700 of those properties have 20 acres or more. The average age of a farmer today is 54.

The room at the Ramada was decorated with old farm-themed items, including a miniature barn with animals, a grandmother and grandfather doll sitting in rocking chairs, a butter churn, aprons, tractors and other farming items.

As part of the meeting, members wore some of their favorite aprons that might have been from a family member or they picked out an apron that was available to wear for a fashion show of aprons. Many members participated in the fashion show.

The award for the best farming centerpiece went to the Brightwood Club. Door prizes also were awarded.

Raffle tickets were given to each of the six clubs that comprise the Washington County Homemakers membership to sell. First prize is a 95-inch-by-100-inch blue basket quilt, second prize is $100 and third prize is a Vera Bradley beach bag and purse. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5.

The winning tickets for the quilt and other prizes will be picked Sept. 26 at the bingo event at the North American Rod and Gun Club at 11 a.m.

Proceeds from bingo and other fundraising events help pay for up to 10 yearly scholarships for children and grandchildren of homemakers members. Hagerstown Community College and Shepherd University also provide homemakers scholarships.
For those interested in purchasing a raffle ticket or for more information on the bingo event, call Nancy Itynre at 301-432-8039.

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