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Bowman family awarded annual Ag Center Pioneer Award

Romantic that I am, I took my wife out on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, to the annual Carroll County Agriculture Center dinner. Since 1993, the annual dinner has been used as an opportunity to honor individuals and businesses with the "Pioneer Award," in recognition for longstanding service to the Carroll County agriculture community and the Agriculture Center,

This year's award went to the R.D. Bowman family, which has been a cornerstone of the agricultural community through the family businesses that date back to 1928. Dirk Bowman and his wife Julie attended the dinner to receive the award on behalf of the family.

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Dirk, his brother Dale, and his sister Dawn DeVivo are the third-generation owners of the Westminster feed sales business, R.D. Bowman & Sons Inc., and the Home & Garden Center, which opened in 1981.

According to a March 24, 1993 article in The Baltimore Sun by writers Ellie Baublitz and Tom Keyser, "In 1928, Ralph Dutterer Bowman bought a little country grocery store in Union Mills on a dirt road that is now Route 97, or Littlestown Pike. He operated the store for more than 30 years, during which time the big event was the Friday night banana auction.

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"Mr. Bowman would drive to Baltimore early in the week and buy bunches of bananas off the boats at Pratt Street. He'd hang the bananas in the cellar of his store until Friday. Then he'd set up the bingo stand, prepare the penny-pitching area, sell hot dogs and watermelons. The neighbors would sell home brew back in the alley. Lots of people would turn out as the auctioneer sold banana bunches for 75 cents to $1."

Andy Cashman, vice president of the Ag Center, spoke at this year's presentation. Cashman is an authority on the history of American agriculture fairs and is an official with the Maryland State Fair, the Carroll County Fair, and the Agriculture Center.

"During the depression the business provided the basic staples to a growing community that was supported by two large canning companies, The B.F. Shriver Co. and A.W. Feeser," said Cashman at the dinner.

"Assisted by his sons, Robert and Edward, the store prospered. In 1954, he incorporated the business into R.D. Bowman & Sons Inc," according to the 1993 Sun article.

"The year 1960 brought an opportunity to become a dealer for the Ralston Purina Company in Westminster," according to Cashman. In 1963, the business moved to where the old Albaugh and Babylon Farm was located at John Street and Englar Road, in Westminster.

Although the first mention of an "agriculture center" in Carroll County arguably dates back to 1863, the present day Agriculture Center was established as a private organization on March 20, 1954, by a group of visionary leaders, according to retired extension agent Robert L. Jones.

Charles F. Brehm, Charlotte Conway, Lester F. Stem, Walter V. Bennett, Violet M. Coshun, Landon C. Burns, Randall G. Spoerlein, and Stewart D. Young purchased the land at the end of an old dirt lane off Gist Road, way outside of town, with their own money.

The modern history of an annual dinner gathering dates back to 1963. The February 3, 1966 edition of the Carroll County Times carried a front page, above-the-fold article, with the headline, "Annual Agriculture Center Dinner Set for February 18."

The article reports, "The fourth annual dinner meeting … is for the benefit of the Center… Farm Bureau, Young People, Homemakers Clubs, the Grange, and 4-H Groups, will be in charge of the entertainment…"

This year's dinner provided wonderful entertainment for a romantic Valentine's Day.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.



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