Farm family of the year

The Frederick County Agriculture Business Council's Farm Family of the Year award was presented to the O'Hara family Friday night. Shown from left are O'hara family members Edward, Kay, Eddie and Emily.

A lifetime of farming earned the O'Hara family the Frederick County Agriculture Business Council's Farm Family of the Year honors Friday at The Great Frederick Fair.

In 1951, A. LaMar O'Hara and his wife, Mary Keller O'Hara, bought a dairy farm on Cap Stine Road, where they milked Holsteins and raised replacement heifers and crops to feed their herd.

The couple have been Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association members for more than 60 years. Sons Eddie and Allen and daughter Karen all helped with the farm work, but it was Eddie, now 59, who took the reins from his parents in 1994.

“I always wanted to be a farmer,” Eddie O'Hara said. “My dad is 89, and he still helps out on the farm. We're very proud of this honor, but it's all because of all the hard work of my parents and my current family that we are able to qualify.”

Farm chores are a family affair. Eddie met his wife, Kay Boyer O'Hara, at a 4-H meeting, and they married in 1974. Kay helps with the farm by milking, hauling wagons and doing general farm chores. Most importantly, she maintains the operation's financial information.

The couple have been heavily involved in local agricultural activities, including Frederick County Young Farmers and the committee that initiated the Farm Bureau Dairy Bar at The Great Frederick Fair that still serves ice cream today.

The O'Haras are inductees in the 4-H All-Stars, and Eddie serves on the board of directors of the 4-H Camp and Activities Center. They made sure that their four children had the same opportunities in 4-H and FFA that inspired them, they said.

Ed, the oldest of the four children, is married to Beth, and they have a son, Eli. Together, they own and operate Ed's Country Bakery, built on the farm in 2001.

Brian, the second-born son, now lives in Connecticut. His wife, Kimberly, and children Sterling, Elizabeth and Ross help with chores when they visit.

Emily, the couple's third child and only daughter, enjoyed milking and field work. She was a Little Farmerette and served as a spokeswoman for the agriculture industry as both the Maryland State Farm Queen in 1998 and State Dairy Princess in 1999. Emily is now a contracting officer at Fort Detrick, but her heart is still at the farm where she helps when she can, said Kay O'Hara, 57.

Dan, the O'Haras' fourth child, lives in Florida with his wife, Laura, and daughter Lucy.

The entire family gladly shares the Hara-Vale Farm story whenever the opportunity avails itself, Kay O'Hara said.

Unstable milk prices over the years have been a challenge for the family.

“This prohibits being able to pay farm helpers what they are worth, and discouraged the children to continue dairy farming,” Eddie O'Hara said. “As a result, the registered Holstein herd was sold in January. Fortunately, a local young couple who was looking for a good herd of cows to start their business purchased the herd.”

The O'Haras decided to diversify their farm by starting a small cow/calf operation, continuing to raise and sell dairy beef, growing crops, hauling livestock, and selling eggs, hay and straw. Beef and eggs are sold at the bakery and to private customers.

“As other Frederick County farm families are doing, we are evolving from dairy farming to other forms of farming and are looking forward to the many agricultural opportunities that are available here in Frederick County," Eddie O'Hara said.

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