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News Maryland Harford County Forest Hill

Rigdon named first female supervisor of 69-year-old Harford Soil Conservation District

The age-old board of the Harford Soil Conservation District has a new face.

Andrea "Andy" Rigdon, of Jarrettsville's Rigdon Farms, is the first female voting member to serve as a board supervisor since the district was established in 1944.

The soil conservation district is a quasi-governmental group that develops conservation and water quality plans for county farms, with special emphasis on the Deer Creek Priority Watershed.

Rigdon, 51, began serving on the board in August. She joins four other appointed members, as well as a representative from the ag extension service and two district representatives, a manager and conservationist.

Rigdon has already been working as an assistant supervisor since 2005, so she and district manager Bill Tharpe said the appointment makes sense.

"I am proud to say that we use a lot of these conservation techniques on our farm and it works, and I am happy to promote it," Rigdon said Monday. "I see all the good this district does in promoting conservation."

Growing up on Mary Lee Farm near Harford Community College, Rigdon has a lifetime of experience with the farming community and is one of a handful of full-time female farmers in Harford County, she said.

Rigdon has been part of Rigdon Farms since her marriage 30 years ago to John Rigdon, raising beef cattle as well as corn, soybeans, barley and "a good deal of hay."

The farm has also run a pick-your-own blueberry business since 1982 and had pumpkins and ornamentals for 20 years.

Rigdon said it is valuable to have a woman on the board and believes she brings something unique to the group.

"I feel that it is important to have a woman on the board because women see things in different ways, so I feel it's important for diversity," she said. "I am a little surprised there has not been a woman on the board, but I think, being present on the board before for all these years, I feel that women have been represented, or I don't find it so weird because there's always been a woman on the extension on the board."

"I don't feel women have been slighted by the board," she continued.

About her own personality, she said: "I am a doer, that's for sure."

"I think that maybe I look at things with maybe a little more practical sense," she said. "I don't know if that's a woman thing... but that is more of how I think."

"Having experience being a full-time farmer and knowing how conservation efforts help and make a difference on our farm, I think that is what I bring to the board," Rigdon said. "Having used these practices on our farm, I guess it makes it easier to be out there talking them up or promoting these conservation efforts."

Tharpe said new nutrient requirements, specifically those that require no nutrients in a 10-foot setback and would go into effect in January 2014, will be the biggest issue the conservation district will confront.

"At this point in time, we have to move forward with what is on the books," he said. "We are just hoping that Soil Conservation District can be there to assist [farmers] to get to that point."

He thought Rigdon will be a great addition to the board, as she has been essentially part of it already since 2005.

"She has been very active in her role, but I have always kind of been in her corner," Tharpe, who has been with the district for 17 years, said.

"I think she brings a completely new, regenerated type of perspective to conservation," Tharpe said. "We have had pretty much the same board since the early 2000s, so this is a change and it's a big one, and not only that it's a new board member, female board member, but when people get honored as a supervisor, they usually tend to stay, so I am looking forward to working with Andy."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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