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Eck named 2015 Miss Maryland Agriculture
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
TIMONIUM, Md. (Sept. 8, 2015) — Jenell Eck didn’t have to wait to hear her name called to know she was selected as 2015 Miss Maryland Agriculture.
It wasn’t inside information, the 18-year-old Queen Anne’s County native said.
It was her county that gave it away.
“All I needed to hear was the ‘Q’ because nobody else has a Q in their county,” she said, after helping in the Maryland State Fair’s 4-H/FFA Livestock Auction, one of her first official duties as Miss Maryland Agriculture.
And as eager as she was to accept the title, she said she is just as excited to educate people across Maryland about where food comes from.
In 2004, Eck was named Little Miss Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau and “that’s when the spark kind of ignited,” she said. An organization like Farm Bureau gives me a louder voice to tell my ag story.” She’s the first Miss Maryland Agriculture winner from Queen Anne’s County since Ruth Todd won the honor in 1977.
The daughter of Vicky and Mark Eck, Jenell was raised on a poultry and grain farm in Ingleside. Between her parents and brother Alan, the family farms more than 1,200 acres and grows 1.3 million chickens annually in 12 poultry houses contracting with Mountaire Farms.
On the farm, Jenell said she does “whatever they need me to do, help with the chickens, run the combine. I learned to plant this year. It was really fun.”
But in recent years, Jenell’s time on the farm has been more limited as she pursued many other avenues in agriculture. In the past year, she said she traveled more than 10,500 miles as the Maryland FFA president, visiting FFA chapters all over the state, attending leadership trainings and other agriculture events. Through FFA, she spent two weeks touring farms in South Africa.
She was also the Maryland State FFA Poultry Proficiency Winner, and is a Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau board member representing Young Farmers, Cloverleaf 4-H Club president, and the Queen Anne’s County 4-H extemporaneous speaking champion.
Jenell is currently interning with the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s marketing department and starting her first year of college, studying elementary and special education at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Md., with plans to go on to a four-year university for a degree in elementary education and agriculture communication. Being selected Miss Maryland Agriculture brings scholarships valued at $13,000 from the Maryland Farm Bureau and the Maryland State Fair.
As Miss Maryland Agriculture, Jenell said one of her first goals is to visit all the schools in her county to talk with students about pursuing careers in agriculture.
“Middle school is when you pick your major major, so to speak,” Jenell said. “I feel like I can educate them about what’s available in agriculture and not just farming. I hope for a very exciting year serving as Miss Maryland Agriculture being able to educate people about farming.”
The first runner-up in this year’s contest is Autumn Lippy from Carroll County; the second runner-up is Katy Rosche from Prince George’s County; the third runner-up is Jacqueline Bauer from Howard County; and the fourth runner-up is Rebecka Jones from Calvert County.
Addressing the 23 contestants on stage in fair’s main show ring, Maryland Farm Bureau President Chuck Fry said he doesn’t see the contest as deciding winners and losers since each contestant will be an advocate for farming in Maryland.
“That’s what we do here. We’re growing the next crop for agriculture’s future,” Fry said. “You are all our crown jewel.”
The contest was also Jordan Mister’s last official event as the reigning Miss Maryland Agriculture, selected in 2014.
For Mister, the personal interactions she had over the past year as Miss Maryland Agriculture “was the highlight of my year.”
She said while the 2015 contest marked the end of her official service, “it only marks the the beginning of a lifelong involvement with these organizations that I’ve come to know. I’m so excited to see what comes next.”