3/2/2013 7:00 AM
By Margaret Gates Regional Editor
The Maryland Holstein Convention is typically an opportunity to recognize youth and honor some of the state’s outstanding breeders for their hard work and dedication.
The 2013 convention, which kicks off Friday at the Carroll County Ag Center’s Burns Hall in Westminster, is no different
But for those in Carroll County who are hosting the event, it is a celebration of a little something more, something embodied in this year’s theme: “Rich Friendships ... Real Holsteins.”
“What makes Carroll County unique is our friendships, how close we are,” said Lisa Schwartzbeck, publicity coordinator for the convention. “We are a close farming community.”
Four lifelong friends would certainly agree with that assessment.
Crystal Stambaugh Edwards, Kelly Myers Zepp, Erin Burall Mongold and Jessica Fritz Little formed their ties in 4-H. Time has only served to strengthen that bond, reinforced by their shared love of farming — and Holsteins.
Their other common bond: All four women, now married adults with their own families, have returned to work on their family farms.
“We all kind of hang out in the same circle and see each other at all the cow functions,” said Edwards, who is herd manager at Pheasant Echo’s Farm in Westminster, where they milk about 110 to 115 cows.
Edwards handles evening milkings and as many mornings as possible, along with herd management, breeding decisions with her brother, vaccinations and dehornings. She’s also served on the Holstein club’s board of directors and helped with various committees and sales.
Zepp returned to work on her family’s Windsor Manor Farm in New Windsor, where she handles the majority of the milking, along with other duties. She is also past president of the Carroll County Holstein Club.
Zepp is co-chairwoman of this year’s convention, along with Edwards’ sister, Tanya.
Mongold is the current president of the county Holstein club and herd manager for her family’s Burlin Farm in New Windsor, where she handles all the milkings, calf feeding, mating and vet checks. She also serves on the state Holstein association board.
Burlin Farm has about 300 head, Mongold said, mostly Holstein but also some Brown Swiss. They milk about 190, she said.
Little does most of the milking and calf care at her family’s 60-head registered Holstein farm, Fritz Farm LLC in New Windsor. Her brother handles field work and crops.
Little is a member of the county Holstein club and also serves on the Maryland Dairy Princess committee. She helped coach the Maryland 4-H Dairy Judging team, traveling to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., last fall for the national contest.
Kelly and Crystal went to school together; Erin and Jessica were a few years younger. They’ve done Dairy Bowl, showing and judging together.
Kelly and Jessica were on an FFA judging team that went to nationals in the mid-1990s.
Kelly and Crystal decorated for Erin’s wedding. Crystal was Jessica’s maid of honor.
Kelly and Jessica live across the street from each other, and their children ride the school bus together every morning.
They all now live within five miles of one another.
“Really, that’s what our county is about,” Mongold said. “Everyone is real close friends.”
Zepp said the Carroll County Holstein Club is made up largely of parents, grandparents and children of farm families. She estimated that most members are part of a farm operation that’s been handed down through the generations.
“Within the county, everyone is so close and gets along, and we have a good time celebrating the Holsteins,” Zepp said.
This year’s celebration begins Friday, March 8, with a business meeting, luncheon, guest speaker John Burket of Burket Falls Farm discussing polled Holsteins, a regional meeting with Holstein USA, trade booths and visits with local herds. There will also be a ladies program.
An evening banquet will include the presentation of awards and scholarships, followed by a silent auction to benefit the Maryland Junior Holstein Club and the youth headed to the National Holstein Convention.
The agenda for Saturday, March 9, features the junior program, including a tour of Shepherd’s Manor Creamery, and the convention sale.
Various Holstein clubs across the state take turns hosting the convention each year. Carroll County last hosted the event six years ago.
Schwartzbeck said the convention host is typically responsible for the photo for the Maryland Holstein Annual. Rather than focus on one breeder or animal, organizers decided this year to focus on the membership as a whole and their shared friendships — and a convention theme was born.
“We loved it,” Edwards said of the theme.
Even in show circles, which can be very competitive, Edwards said, Carroll County breeders are supportive of each other’s successes.
Her family, the Stambaughs, had numerous wins over the past year, including the Maryland Futurity, she said.
“There were other people that were so happy for us, and that really makes you appreciate your friendships even more,” she said.
“I think it’s one of the great things about the dairy industry in Carroll County and Maryland, the camaraderie and the way people are always willing to help each other out,” Little said.
“I think other dairy farmers are the only people that can understand what dairy farmers go through,” she said. “And the challenges we face kind of draw everybody together.”