A typical summer day for Jill Allen of Jefferson begins around 4:45 a.m. when she wakes up to help milk cows.
The process takes about two hours and then, depending on the day, Allen, 19, will spend time working at a local feed store and return home where “it’s time to start everything all over again, whether it’s feeding the heifers, milking the cows or feeding bottle calves.”
An upcoming sophomore at Frederick Community College, a member of 4-H since she was 8 years old and president of the 2019-2020 Maryland FFA Association State Officers team, Allen was recently named the new Miss Frederick County Farm Bureau.
Allen said she was encouraged to enter the contest by previous winners.
“They thought that, I guess, my experience through FFA and 4-H would put me in a good position,” she said. “I was going to run the previous year but I was too caught up with FFA, so I waited a year and it kind of worked out for the best. I just had a lot of people who influenced me to do it … and I’m glad I did.”
Last year, the contest involved an application, resume and essay as well as an interview with a panel of three judges, followed by a speech and Q&A in front of family, friends and members of the public.
This year, things were a little different because of COVID-19 but an application, resume and essay were still required.
“We held it local, everything was outside, everyone was spaced out,” Allen said. “We had short, personal interviews where they asked us questions from our resume and throughout our application.”
After that, came “fishbowl questions, which were taken from specific points or things that we’ve done that they saw listed in our resume and asked us ... to go into a little bit more depth on those.”
The contest was livestreamed on Facebook so that the public could watch. Jaclyn Bryant and Shea Cencula were the other contestants who participated.
During her time as Miss Frederick County Farm Bureau, Allen said she hopes to make sure that consumers are aware of the benefits of agriculture and how important it is. She also hopes to clarify any misconceptions people might have about agriculture and educate them so they have a better understanding and can relay their knowledge to family and friends.
“And just have people realize that they may not see it or notice it, but agriculture affects everyone,” Allen said. “Everyone eats.”
As far as negative misconceptions, Allen said one example is the eco friendliness or carbon footprint of farming.
“People believe that animals are, I guess, polluting the earth when really pollution is really coming from more car and planes and boats and things like that,” she said.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, 28 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 came from transportation, while 10 percent came from agriculture.
A 2019 article entitled ‘The effects of improved performance in the U.S. dairy cattle industry on environmental impacts between 2007 and 2017 also noted that, “In line with previous historical analyses, the U.S. dairy industry has made remarkable productivity gains and environmental progress over time,” according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information website.
Allen also hopes to educate people about the “precautions farmers go through to make farming practices more eco friendly.”
These include crop rotations and cover crops. Cover crops protect soil from wind and water erosion. They can also help recycle unused plant nutrients left over in the soil.
“There’s a lot of things that go into helping … the earth that people don’t necessarily notice,” Allen said.
Allen will go next to the Miss Maryland Agriculture State Contest at the Maryland State Fair, which is still set for now for in August.
While the cancelation of the Great Frederick Fair means one less opportunity to educate the public, Allen said she hopes there’s other ways to relay information, such as through social media.
As for what she’s most looking forward to about stepping into the role of representing the farm bureau and educating people about agriculture, Allen said she wants to meet new people and make connections.
“As I go throughout school and college, like I learned from this last year of FFA, the more connections you make and more people you meet, it can really help you in the future,” she said. “I’m excited for that and pretty thankful for that opportunity.”