Roy G. Elliott strides down a winter-dead field at his Darlington farm as a chill in the air nips at his heels. As he approaches a barn sheltering his cattle, a skittish farm cat darts under a tractor.
These are the kind of days Elliott can take his time reading the newspaper.
But in a few weeks, Elliott will be busy with farm business: Getting tractors in gear, planting the spring crop of corn, fattening up his 125 head of cattle for market.
The 63-year-old Elliott is an old hand at the helm of his family's 135-acre spread off Route 135. With an additional eight leased tracts, the Elliotts farm 325 acres.
Elliott looks to this season with pride for he's been named the 1992Farmer of the Year by the Harford Farm Bureau.
"It's just something I've always liked to do," he says of farming. "It's a good life."
Elliott, a third-generation farmer, was named Farmer of the Year for his dedication to agriculture and the community, said Donald Hoopes, farm bureau president.
He has been active in the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company for 40 years. As one of the company's most activemembers, Elliott answers as many as 150 calls a year. He also servesas the 4-H's superintendent of beef cattle at the annual Harford Farm Fair, and is an active member of the United Methodist Church in Darlington.
Elliott had quintuple bypass heart surgery in December. He admits the surgery has slowed him down, but he says it won't stop him.
"I'll have to slow down and not work as many hours and get my rest," says Elliott, who spent 10 days at University Medical Center in Baltimore. "But if I take care of myself, there isn't a reason why I can't continue farming."
Within two days of his release from thehospital, Elliott was visited by 33 people wanting to know if there was anything they could do for him. That was the least people in Darlington could do for a man who has always been there for them, says longtime resident Robert Kelly III.
After winter snows, Elliott is often found clearing the driveways of his neighbors, Kelly says. And when Wilson Ministries of the Deer Creek Episcopal Parish needed diesel fuel for work on its social services center, Elliott opened his tanks for the volunteers.
"If you need something, you know he'll helpyou in any way, shape or form," says Kelly, who nominated Elliott for Farmer of the Year last fall.
J. Alan Thompson, chief of the Darlington fire company, said he couldn't get by without Elliott, particularly during the day -- when most volunteers are on the job and can't respond to calls. Elliott, who resumed work at the company last week, would often leave his fields to answer a fire call.
Elliott wasnamed Darlington's Firefighter of the Year in 1985. He also receivedthe James Warner Award in 1988 as the company's outstanding member.
Kelly credits Elliott for sparking his interest in farming. When Kelly was 8 years old, he started working at Elliott's farm.Now 48, Kelly is a partner in B.G.S. Jourdan & Sons, which farms 700 acres in the Darlington area.
Named the Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1979, Elliott was one of the first in the county to use the "no till" method of planting. The method, now commonly used, calls for farmers to spread seeds and fertilizer at the same time, to reduce soil erosion and runoff.
Elliott says he has no plans for retirement, although his daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Patrick Dailey, play a growing role in the farm's operations.
While Elliott is certain about his future, he's not so sure about the future of farming in Harford, because of rising costs and government restrictions.
"It's getting harder and harder to make ends meet. We'll always have farmers, but we will have fewer and fewer all the time."