In about a week, three local young women will be vying for the chance to represent Carroll County's agricultural community.
This year's crop of contestants is among the best in the county, organizers said.
"We have a very high caliber of girls, and they will do a good job," said Sue Myers, co-chairwoman of the event sponsored by the Carroll County Farm Bureau. "We have some good, talented young women coming along."
For the past several years, the Carroll County Farm Queen has either won or been a runner-up in the state contest, Ms. Myers said. Jenell Rinehart of Taneytown, the 1990 Maryland Farm Queen, was the last state winner from Carroll County.
This year's entrants are Christina Harper of Union Bridge, 16; Carie Martin of Manchester, 17; and Mary Ellen Seraydian of Taneytown, 17. The girls will compete at 8 p.m. Aug. 1 at the Carroll County Agricultural Center during the opening night of the county 4-H/FFA Fair.
The winner, who vies for the state title at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium on Aug. 28, will receive $200, Ms. Myers said. The two other contestants will receive $50 each for participating, she said.
"Essentially, she is the spokesperson for the Farm Bureau," Ms. Myers said. The Farm Queen's duties generally include giving "milk toasts" at banquets and representing the agricultural community at the fair.
She will also work at the Farm Bureau booth during Ag Days at Cranberry Mall, Ms. Myers said.
"They wear their banners and we hope that if people have questions about agriculture, they will ask them," she said.
Although appearance is a factor, it is much more important that the Farm Queen be knowledgeable about the policies of the Farm Bureau and about agriculture in general, Ms. Myers said.
In the judging, farm and community achievements count for 25 percent; speaking ability, 25 percent; knowledge of agriculture, 25 percent; personality, 15 percent; and general appearance, 10 percent, she said.
Judges this year will be Dawn Downey, 1992 Maryland Farm Queen and 1993 State Dairy Princess; Jesse Burall, president of the Frederick County Farm Bureau; and Merhlyn Barnes, who works with the state Farm Bureau Women's Committee.
"We do look to the agricultural community to get our judges," Ms. Myers said. "A lot of times, we get a person outside agriculture as well, but this year we went through six different people to get our judges."
Each of the contestants will be have a personal interview with the judges and then give a five-minute biographical presentation to the audience, Ms. Myers said. The young women will also have five minutes to answer an agricultural question drawn at random, she said.
For Carie Martin, a senior at North Carroll High, the whole process will be deja vu. She is the only contestant from last year.
"I liked it," Carie said of last year's competition. "It was a wonderful experience to be in the parade and have a chance to share what I thought about agriculture with them.
"It will help me prepare myself for this year because I know what is expected of me."
Carie -- who plans to attend Western Maryland College and pursue a career in physical therapy -- lives on a 14-acre dairy goat farm with her parents, Mike and Cathy, and younger sisters, Nancy and Katie.
She is active in the 4-H Chevonaire Dairy Goat Club and the Mid-Maryland Horse and Pony Association.
"I'm not going to get away from agriculture [when I leave college]," Carie said. "I'll always have a farm, probably with cattle and field crops, a couple of goats and horses. I'll have a little bit of everything."
Competition is no stranger to Mary Ellen Seraydian, either. She was chosen as the 1993 Carroll County Dairy Princess and as the alternate Maryland Dairy Princess.
A senior at Francis Scott Key High, Mary Ellen is the president of the school's FFA chapter and was selected as the Outstanding FFA Member last year.
"A lot of my fellow 4-H and FFA members have run, and I just thought it would be a good opportunity to work with the Farm Bureau," said Mary Ellen, who lives with her parents, Charles and Mary Ann, and her younger sister, Erin, on a 14-acre dairy farm.
"I will do the best I can and, hopefully, win the title so I can work for the Farm Bureau and for agriculture," she said.
Mary Ellen, who has spent the summer participating in many national leadership and academic conferences, plans to attend college and pursue a career in either veterinary medicine or communications with a concentration in agriculture.
Christina Harper, the daughter of Jean and Bill Coshun, said she entered the contest primarily for the experience.
"I wanted to have more experience talking in front of people and to practice my public speaking," she said. "If I don't win, I'll try again in the Dairy Princess contest and next year's Farm Queen when I have more experience."
Christina, a junior at Francis Scott Key High, lives with her family a 200-acre dairy farm. The family also operates a 28-acre "choose and cut" Christmas tree farm, she said.
She is a member of the Francis Scott Key FFA chapter and various agricultural organizations and was chosen last year as an alternate Dairy Princess.
"I plan to go to college and be in an agricultural-related field after college," Christina said.