Traveling teen farmer wins Carroll farm queen title

August 04, 1993|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,Contributing Writer Amy Miller contributed to this article.

At the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair Monday night, six young women put aside their farm chores and pulled on their sequined-satin prom night finest.

This was the Carroll County Farm Queen contest, for farm women 16 through 18. They had been invited to talk about agriculture.

None was more electrifying than Marie Speak, 18, recently returned from a two-week tour of European farms with the United States Dairy Judging Team.

"From the rolling hills of Carroll County to the alpine peaks of Switzerland," she said, "I've learned a lot about the methods of agriculture. I represented the United States in Edinburgh, Scotland, as a member of the Dairy Judging Team."

She spoke of her farm chores.

"I can be found raking hay. . . . Many times I'm called upon for equipment sanitation and to clean the hog pens. I own 13 brown Swiss and milking shorthorns," she said.

She'll be an agriculture-business management major at the University of Maryland College Park and plans to continue dairy judging on the collegiate level.

What makes a good Farm Queen?

"Good speaking voice, a good knowledge of agriculture, and the desire to go out and meet people," she said before going on stage. With fingers crossed, she added, "Hopefully, this will be the year for me."

It was her year. Marie Speak was chosen 1994 Carroll County Farm Queen.

As she accepted the crown, Ms. Speak excitedly told the audience, "I guess the four-leaf clover my sister put in my shoe really did its trick."

"It was a total surprise," she said later.

By yesterday, she already was being treated like royalty, she said.

"My little sister [Susie] is being such a sweetheart," she said. "She's washing my animals and all. But I promised to take her out to dinner."

Tracey Claggett was selected as alternate.

Claggett also gave a passionate speech. "I want my agriculture to be here for my children -- as we found it, if not better," she said, to a round of applause. She raises horses, beef and swine and is interested in natural resources and public speaking.

4 She's sung in the National FFA chorus in Kansas.

"Agriculture is very important, and I love being a part of it," she said.

The audience, standing elbow to elbow around the packed bleachers and seats, held grandparents, parents and babies, friends of the contestants and friends of their families. People weren't willing to guess the winner before her name was announced.

For the contest, each woman delivered a rehearsed biography and dug into a fishbowl for a question.

Judges were Nicki Smelser, fashion coordinator at Leggett's department store; Lori Zimmerman, a former Farm Queen; and Jay Hoffman, administrator at the Maryland Farm Bureau. In the judging, appearance counted for 10 percent. Far more important were agricultural knowledge and public speaking ability.

The other contestants were:

* Marti Fair, who spoke of her horses, beef heifers and swine. She'll travel to New Mexico for horse judging. She hopes to become a veterinarian and return to Carroll to open a clinic for dairy animals. "The role of women in agriculture has changed," she said. "Without the women, the farm wouldn't exist. Women work right along with the men."

* Melissa Harrison, 18, from a grain and wheat farm in Woodbine. "Educating our suburban neighbors would be a most important duty of Farm Queen," she said.

* Carie Martin, 16, whose fans cheered when she stepped into the spotlight. She's devoted to small animals, from dairy goats and chickens to cats and dogs. One major problem facing farmers today, she said, is "all the prices for feed, hay and animals are going up. It's hard to scruff up enough money to feed them to feed you."

* Monica Feeser, 17, who gave a rundown of accomplishments, from helping raise 4,000 hogs and 75 head of cattle to her 4.0 scholastic average and activities in the National Junior Angus Association. To persuade someone to join the Farm Bureau, she said, "I'd tell them the Farm Bureau is a growing organization created by farmers for farmers. It's the voice of our farmers in Washington."

As Carroll County Farm Queen, Marie Speak will be able to compete for the Maryland State Farm Queen crown at the state fair this month.

The 1993 Maryland State Farm Queen, Dawn Downey, was visiting from her family's dairy, beef and grain farm in Washington County. The Farm Queen contest, she said, is an activity of the Farm Bureau women's committee, which encourages women from farms to become role models and ambassadors of agriculture to the farmer and consumer.

Ms. Speak pronounced her recent trip to Europe "wonderful."

"I think the best part of the trip was when I was on my own," she said. "The rest of them [the judging team] went home after Paris, and they really should have stayed."

Her extra week, organized by Frederick County brown Swiss breeder Becky Long, allowed Ms. Speak to stay with two Swiss families and learn more about her favorite breed.

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