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Library shows how food gets from Farm to Fork

FINKSBURG — Lilli Young, 6, stepped forward to take the first turn milking Gertrude the goat, glancing apprehensively at the animal as she reached her hand out.

"Start at the top and squeeze your fingers down slowly," Nate Beard, the goat's owner, said as his young student filled some of the bucket.

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Giggling, Lilli stepped back to make way for her brother to have a turn, pausing for a moment to pat Gertrude on the head. It was her first time milking, she said, and though it was "really fun," she wouldn't want to taste the milk herself.

Lilli and her brother were just a few of the children in attendance at the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library's first Farm to Fork event, which showcased Carroll's rich history in agriculture through educational displays.

Stemming from the library's "Celebrate America" programming and its quarterly book selection, Michael Pollan's "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation," the event included entertainment targeting children in the afternoon and adults in the evening.

For the children, educational activities ranged from sampling dehydrated foods to observing honeybees, petting a chicken and milking Gertrude.

"We see it as a way to introduce people to specialties of the agricultural world, brought right to their library," Tony Eckard, Carroll County Public Library's finance manager, said, adding, "It's hands-on, interactive and visual, just what kids like."

A team began planning the event months ago, Eckard said, reaching out to partner organizations and local farms — the sort of vendors and exhibitors expected to be found at farmers markets.

Carroll County's heritage has a lot to do with agriculture and farming, children's librarian Lynn Beard said, and so as the population changes, it's important to continue to educate people about the county's rich history.

Alexandra Cary, 3, planted spinach seeds in a to-go container, reviewing what they need to grow — sunlight, water, soil — as she did. She planned to put it "somewhere sunny" when she got home.

"We come to the library a lot, so we knew this event was happening. I thought it would be cool, especially for my daughter," her mother, Min-Li Cary, said.

The Carroll County History Project recorded oral histories from county residents at the event, as part of its ongoing effort to document Carroll's past through memories and stories. While there, volunteers also collected recipes as part of the group's "A Slice of Life" initiative, available on its website.

Inside, Maryland Dairy Princess Autumn Lippy greeted children, handing out cow erasers, "Got Milk?" stickers and questions on her informational presentation board. Lippy, who was crowned in July, hopes to bridge the gap between dairy farmers and consumers, she said.

"I've had dairy goats since I was 5 years old, and dairy cows my whole life," she said. "It's important, to me, to promote the dairy industry, especially since Carroll is such a farming community."

After winning a prize, children could go on to taste homemade fruit leather or dried apples and cinnamon at a table, or shake a container of heavy cream until it turned into butter.

The adult activities consisted of live music and a speaker, along with tastings from four wineries and a brewery, Beard said. But for the children, there was plenty of entertainment in the afternoon.

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"We played in the corn," Alexandra said, clutching her pot of newly-planted spinach seeds, before adding: "And we're going to milk a goat soon!"

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