James A. Knill has spent all 32 years of his life farming. And he can't imagine doing anything else.
"I think I can make a living out of farming," said Mr. Knill, a Mount Airy dairy farmer, who recently placed second in the Maryland Jaycees Outstanding Farmer Contest.
"I think that's what I'll do for the rest of my life," he said. "It's what I'm aiming at, anyway. I have no plans to swing out of farming."
Mr. Knill, who was sponsored by the Mount Airy Jaycees chapter, was one of five contestants in the statewide competition last month.
As the second-place winner, Mr. Knill would progress to the national competition in either Anaheim, Calif., or St. Louis during February 1995 should the first-place winner be unable to attend, said Merry Lynn Barrie, coordinator for the Mount Airy contest.
"You could have knocked me over with a feather," Ms. Barrie said, noting that this was the first time the Mount Airy chapter entered the contest. "When I first heard it, I thought he won fourth or fifth place. But when they announced the first-place winner right after it [meaning he was in second place], I went crazy."
Ms. Barrie said she was motivated to get her chapter involved in the contest when Jeff Englund, a Mount Airy dairy farmer on Detrick Road, won the state competition three years ago. Mr. Englund was sponsored by the Frederick Jaycees.
"Mount Airy has a very strong agricultural community," she said. "I thought it was about time we had a contestant."
First place in the state this year went to Harold E. Smith, the owner of a 1,000-acre dairy operation in Monkton who was sponsored by the Greater Towson Jaycees.
The five national winners will receive the use of a John Deere tractor for a year. John Deere is the national sponsor and Southern States sponsors the state competition.
"From other Jaycees competitions, I know that second place is no slouch," Ms. Barrie said. "He beat out the competition by mere points. They were all good, but Jim is an outstanding candidate."
Mr. Knill, however, is extremely modest about his award.
"I was kind of surprised," he said. "But I appreciate the award and I really appreciate that the Jaycees have an Outstanding Young Farmer program."
Ms. Barrie said she picked Mr. Knill to represent Mount Airy because he was very highly recommended by farmers in the community and members of the local Southern States Cooperative. He is also active in community service.
In addition to singing with his wife, Carol, in the Calvary United Methodist Church choir, Mr. Knill has been active in the Carroll County Farm Bureau, is a board member for Southern States and sponsors several tours for preschool students on his farm every year.
"We try to nominate people who are Jaycee age," said Ms. Barrie, noting that Jaycees are 21 to 39, while entrants are ages 21 to 37. "We'd also like them to become Jaycees, but that's up to them. We don't pressure them to join."
Although there are 65 Jaycee chapters in Maryland, only five sponsored contestants in the Outstanding Farmer Competition. Mount Airy was the only Carroll County chapter to enter the contest.
"Some chapters get intimidated by the process," Ms. Barrie said, commenting that she thought Westminster and Taneytown should have sponsored contestants. "It was a lot easier than I thought it would be to put together."
Competition is judged solely on an eight-page application asking candidates about personal growth in their agricultural career, soil and water conservation practices on their farm, and their community service.
The candidate's agricultural career was worth 50 percent and the other two categories worth 25 percent of the competition, which was judged by two former Outstanding Young Farmer winners and a representative of the University of Maryland's school of agriculture.
On his application, Mr. Knill told the judges he was raised in a farming family and began working part-time for his father, C. William Knill, while attending South Carroll High. After graduating in 1979, he began working full-time and purchasing cows of his own.
In 1982, he married and moved back to farm where he was raised, adjacent to Route 27 in Mount Airy, and in 1989, he purchased his own dairy herd. He now milks 70 cows each day on the farm purchased by his grandparents in the early 1940s, after the Depression.
With his father, he farms the family's 550 acres, scattered around several places in southwestern Carroll County.
"It's what I've always done," Mr. Knill said of his work agreement with his father, who is president of the Maryland Farm Bureau. "I've always done the job that needed to be done. Just because I own the cows doesn't mean I just do the milking and that part of it. I tend to the rest of it as well."
That diversity, from field work to fixing fences, is what keeps him interested in farming, Mr. Knill said.
"All my life, it's all I've ever done," he said. "I'm a farmer, a carpenter, an electrician, a shop worker, a machinist. I like the variety."