County fair, 4-H help reaffirm farming's importance to area


August 16, 1999|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TOM MORELAND and daughter Amanda, 15, brought their pet cow -- whose name is "U of Md James" -- to the Howard County Fair.

The cow, named after her sire, has a friendly disposition, Moreland says. He tied her up at the end of Cow Barn 3 so children could pet her.

For 20 years, Moreland has managed the University of Maryland dairy program at its farm on Folly Quarter Road in Ellicott City. He came to the fair at 4 a.m. Thursday to milk his three cows.

Amanda came, too. She likes farming, she says, and plans to become a veterinarian. She loves working with animals.

In the barns around her, other young people have slept on cots close to their animals. Some have led their cattle to the wash station for an early-morning rinse. Others used soap and brushes to prep their animals for day and evening shows. All seemed relaxed and focused working with their animals.

Amanda forked fresh manure into a pile at the end of the barn. At the other end of the barn, a teen-ager trimmed the hair on his cow's back.

At 7 a.m. in these barns behind the sleepy Midway, rural sensibilities persist. In years past, Moreland says, the cow barns were full. Now there are fewer than 10 dairy farms in Howard County.

Now the small-livestock barns at the fairgrounds overflow with pigs, sheep, chickens and rabbits, he says. Many families raise livestock on farms of 5 to 10 acres.

The Bullock family -- avid 4-H'ers -- have been raising sheep and rabbits on their acre in Ellicott City for about 10 years.

This year, Susan Bullock and her children, Jamie, Curtis and Emma, were all involved in the fair. Each youth brought a Suffolk sheep to show.

The Bullocks decorated their stall in the sheep barn with green cotton bunting. Above each pen hung a sign with each youth's name -- small slate boards painted with green trim, a wooden sheep in the upper right-hand corner.

Jamie, 17, entered the Farm Queen contest this year so she could serve as an advocate for agriculture, she says. She wants younger children "to know that everything they use comes from agriculture."

She was first runner-up. After the fair, her parents drove her to East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., to begin her freshman year.

Her brother, Curtis, 15, won a blue ribbon at the fair for his chocolate chip and slice-and-bake refrigerator cookies.

He says he loved being with his friends at the fair, especially Zachary Todd from Sykesville. They were counselors at a weeklong 4-H summer camp in Garrett County. They talk a lot, Curtis says, and help each other with their animals.

"In 4-H, you can make money," Curtis says, but it is the friendships he values most.

Emma, 12, won a blue ribbon in the Shepherd's Class with her sheep, Brittany. Last year, she sold a 122-pound sheep named Blizzard for $4.25 a pound.

She owns four sheep: Boogers, Bonnie, Brittany and Brianna.

Her first, Boogers, gave birth to triplets last year. Emma says she bottle-fed one lamb (Bonnie), who followed her around in the house, wearing diapers, for a month.

This year, Emma leased a heifer from the Patrick family, one of the few Howard County families still running a dairy farm. Under an agreement with the Patricks, Emma helps raise the heifer. She halter-broke the calf and showed it at the fair.

The Patricks keep the heifer on their farm in Daisy, in western Howard.

The Bullock family came to the fair on Thursday night, when Emma showed the heifer. She placed second in 4-H judging and third in open competition.

Her father, Fred Bullock, a schoolteacher in Baltimore, says he is pleased that his children are learning to manage their money and their animals. When Emma first showed a steer, he said, the animal stepped on her foot. She had to decide whether to stay in the ring or leave.

She stayed.

Fred, the 11th of 14 children, grew up on a farm in Mississippi, where the family struggled. He says he watched his father stretch the budget by managing the farm well. They had pigs, chickens and 100 cows; with them, Fred learned patience and how to manage animals.

Susan Bullock has taught U.S. history and government at Wilde Lake High School for eight years. She was a resource teacher, specializing in diesel and automotive repair, at the former Vocational Technical Center on Route 108.

The 4-H programs "give youth a chance to do what they do best," she says. "Some kids are champion showmen, but not academic at all. The fair gives regular, ordinary kids a chance to be noticed for what they do well."

Susan Bullock applied to participate in the first class of LEAD Maryland -- the state's agricultural leadership development program. The 18-month program, eight seminars and two study tours, began in February. She is the only schoolteacher in the group of 24, which also includes farmers, a nurseryman, a grain producer and an editor.

She says she hopes to use examples from agriculture in her history and government classes.

Ellicott City resident Donna Mennitto, who attends the leadership training, says people like Susan Bullock are vital to helping the public understand farming.

Our society is becoming "agriculturally illiterate," Mennitto says. "People move to get a beautiful view, then want to shut down the farms next door" because of the smells, dust, noise and chemicals.

Farms provide open space, wildlife habitat, forest and woodland buffers along streams, she says. Rainwater seeps through the fields and forests and recharges the underground aquifers.

Mennitto works for the American Farmland Trust, a conservation organization. The group printed the bumper sticker that is pasted on the back window of former Sen. James Clark Jr.'s white Ford pickup truck.

"No Farms No Food," it reads.

Pub Date: 8/16/99

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