When Molly Ousborne was little, she knew she was in for a long but exciting night when her mother would come into her room and say, "Big Momma's about to have her piglets."
Ousborne said she and her mother would hop in the car and drive over to her aunt and uncle's Woodbine farm — often in the middle of the night — to watch Big Mamma give birth.
Now, Ousborne, 17, the reigning Miss Howard County Farm Bureau, makes the drive from her Clarksville home to the farm every day to take care of four pigs of her own.
The River Hill High School rising senior said her love for animals and agriculture started with visits to the farm, where her older cousin, Brooke Hartner, took care of many animals.
When she was 10, Ousborne was the first to be named Little Miss Farm Bureau at the Howard County Fair. That same day in August 2006, Hartner, then 17, won Miss Farm Bureau.
Ousborne said Hartner is the main reason why she got involved in agriculture and taking care of animals. Without a farm of her own, Ousborne would visit Hartner and the animals often, she said.
"Brooke has always been such a great role model for me," said Ousborne. "I saw her grow up with animals and I got to see how much fun she had. It made me want to be involved and be like her."
As Miss Farm Bureau, Ousborne has switched roles and set an example for the current Little Miss Farm Bureau and Future Farmer. She spent time with them at last year's fair and the trio went to Clarksville Elementary School during the school year and staged a puppet show to teach the students about agriculture in the county.
"It was really awesome because a lot of them had no idea about (agriculture)," said Ousborne.
In addition to teaching young students during the past year, Ousborne competed in the Miss Maryland Agriculture contest, served as a youth representative on the 4-H Livestock Sale Committee, attended Howard County Farm Bureau meetings and participated in a Farm Bureau convention in Ocean City.
Annette Fleishell, Howard County Farm Bureau contest chairperson, said Ousborne is very responsible and has been a great mentor for other 4-H kids.
"She's bubbly, she's outgoing, she's driven; Molly's a doer. She's always out there helping," Fleishell said.
On Sunday, Aug. 4, Ousborne will place a cowboy hat — not a crown — on the head of the new Miss Farm Bureau. Ousborne, who was the first to receive a cowboy hat when she won the title, said the hat represents girls who can effectively represent the Farm Bureau and agricultural community.
"It's a really cute idea because it goes much better with the title than a crown. To me, the cowboy hat is a cowgirl's crown," said Ousborne.
According to Fleishell, the girls competing for the cowboy hat and title this year are Amy Bodine, 18, of Glenwood; Jenny Carroll, 16, of Ellicott City; Katelin Johnson, 16, of Mt. Airy; Meghan Ross, 19, of Woodstock; and Laura Thomas, 17, of Ellicott City.
This Miss Howard County Farm Bureau contest will take place at 3 p.m. in the Show Pavilion at the Howard County Fairgrounds, as will the Little Miss Howard County Farm Bureau and Future Farmer contests. The Miss Farm Bureau winner will receive a $1,500 college scholarship and the new Little Miss Farm Bureau and Future Farmer will each be awarded a $100 scholarship.
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Fleishell said the winners, along with the rest of the contestants, will wear their sashes throughout the week of the fair to promote agriculture and to share their experiences.
Ousborne said she will present her pigs in the showmanship competition and will sell one of them Aug. 9 at the livestock sale.
She said her friends enjoy meeting her pigs and think they are "hilarious because they are not what they expect."
Unlike many of her friends, Ousborne said she doesn't mind getting dirty on the farm.
"I like the animals, so the dirt comes along with it," she said.
Ousborne also has a horse named Mickie that she visits at Merry Acres Farm in Ellicott City.
Ousborne said the leadership and speaking skills she has developed over the past year will serve her well in the future. She hopes one day to own a small farm, and that her future children join the 4-H, which she said has opened "a whole new world" of opportunity for her.