Emily Gill, a 19-year-old from White Hall who raises dairy cows and Welsh ponies, was named Miss Harford County Farm Bureau for 2012 at the Farm Fair Thursday evening.
Three young women, all members of the Harford County agriculture community, competed for the title. After a few opening remarks by Jay Rickey, president of the Harford County Farm Bureau, Mike Amoss, the regional director of the Maryland Farm Bureau and the evening's emcee, introduced the three contestants.
While the contestants looked presentable and professional in business suits and pencil skirts, physical appearance was not one of the qualifications the judges – Wendy Dilworth of Kingsville, Sarah Rawlings of Westminster and Jason Watt of Keymar – looked for in a winner. According to Watt, the decision was instead based on how much each contestant knows about agriculture and issues affecting the agricultural community, as well as their public-speaking abilities.
The first contestant was Margaret Stump, from Darlington. Stump is entering her senior year at Havre de Grace High School, raises beef cattle and sheep, and is president of her local live stock club. She spoke about the impact agriculture has had on her life, and the need to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.
Second up was Julie Candelaria, who is a rising senior at Harford Technical High School. Candelaria discussed her role as assistant supervisor of Hope Valley Farm, a horse farm in Street, as well as the impact farmers and consumers have on each other.
Last up was Gill, who told the audience about the work she has done with her dairy cows, which she has shown at the Maryland State Fair and Mason-Dixon Fair, in addition to the Harford County Farm Fair. A student in elementary education and psychology at Goucher College, Gill described her intentions to use her experiences with the 4-H program to educate young children about the importance of agriculture.
The judges then left the room to make their final decisions. Earlier in the afternoon, the judges had conducted one-on-one interviews with each of the young women.
The tension in the audience was quickly eased by Elizabeth Galbreath, the 2012 Upper Chesapeake Dairy Princess. Galbreath performed a skit (originally designed for elementary school students) about the importance of including three servings of dairy in one's daily diet.
Carrie Burcham, the chair of Harford County Farm Bureau's Young Farmers organization, also used the time to invite the audience members to attend one of the Young Farmers' monthly meetings. The group, which includes not only farmers but people interested in raising farm animals or who share environmental concerns with farmers, such as landscapers, meets once a month to discuss changes in regulation and plan social events.
At last, the judges returned with their decision, and Gill was pronounced the winner of the 2012 Miss Harford County Farm Bureau Contest. She thanked her family and friends, saying, "I feel very humbled and I'm just amazed and looking forward to the year ahead."
In her capacity as Miss Farm Bureau, Gill attend official Farm Bureau functions and will work to create strong connections between Harford County farmers and residents. Gill received $500 from Harman's Farm Market, $500 from the Harford County Farm Bureau Women's committee and a $100 savings bond from the Harford County Farm Bureau. Stump and Candelaria received a $100 savings bond each, and will serve as Gill's alternates, should Gill be unable to attend an event.
Hannah Amoss, coordinator of the contest and 2002 Miss Farm Bureau, said she was pleased with how the contest has changed over the years.
"When I won, I was Miss Farm Queen. Now it's more professional." Amoss said. "Women used to be a minority in the agricultural community, but they aren't so much anymore. And I think it's partially because of programs like this."
Several people remarked that Gill, Stump, and Candelaria, along with the many younger girls who showed up to watch the competition, are all excellent examples of the active role today's young women have in the Harford County agricultural community.