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Howard County Fair makes our rural heritage manifest every year [Editorial]

The Howard County Fair is an annual reminder that there are two Howard Counties, one of the soil and one of the suburbs. That, of course, is an oversimplification — some farmers have patio cookouts and some suburbanites grow vegetables — but there is an undeniable duality in this county and nowhere is that more evident than the fair, which continues in West Friendship through Aug. 15.

Before Columbia was begun in the 1960s, Howard County was thoroughly rural with small pockets of development along Routes 1 and 29. What followed was a suburban growth boom fueled by construction of Interstates 70 and 95 and the completion of Columbia, where, at present, about one-third of Howard Countians live.

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Now, eastern Howard County is a prosperous commuter corridor where thousands work inside the county at places like the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory or in neighboring Anne Arundel County, home of Fort Meade and the National Security Agency.

However, head west where the strip malls and tract houses give way to mailboxes along country lanes and find another territory. This, also, is a robust part of the county with an estimated 335 farms. According to the Howard County Economic Development Authority, Howard County has more horses per acre than any county in the United States.

It is here, in the west, that 4-H flourishes. According to the University of Maryland Extension Service, the county has 30 4-H Clubs as well as related programs with a total of nearly 7,000 youths caring for livestock or otherwise embodying the four bywords of "Head, Heart, Hands, Health."

County Executive Allen Kittleman paid a visit to the fair Monday to visit with young people in 4-H programs. He also announced a new agricultural program to promote understanding between rural farmers and their suburban neighbors. Nothing new about disharmony where manicured lawns meet plowed fields. We welcome all efforts to reconcile the John Deere set with the Chevy Suburban faction.

The Howard County Fair is the true recognition and celebration of our diversity. Pay a visit to the livestock sheds, where a cot in a pen next to an animal signals a devotion that extends beyond waking hours. This is our heritage manifest and it deserves our attention.

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