Higgs family to be honored at QA’s fair
CENTREVILLE, Md. — Maryland and Queen Anne’s County officials are scheduled to recognize Tommy and Beth Higgs and family as the 2019 Queen Anne’s County Farm Family of the Year on Aug. 14.
Queen Anne’s County commissioners, legislators, and representatives from the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Governor’s Office will recognize the family on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m., during the Queen Anne’s County Fair at the main show ring.
Both come from families steeped in agriculture.
Beth’s maiden name was Shortall, and her family farmed in Talbot County near Tunis Mills until her grandparents moved to Queen Anne’s County near Ruthsburg to begin their own operation.
The Shortalls milked cows until around 1963 when they decided to transition to raising chickens.
The chicken houses were built on a farm where Tommy and Beth’s son, Chris and daughter-in-law, Sarah now live.
Tommy’s mother, Dorothy Eck, lived in Baltimore County where her family farmed.
Her brother, Carl, bought a farm in Queen Anne’s County where they milked cows.
Tommy said the Ecks would milk cows on the Eastern Shore and then jump on a two-seater plane and fly back to Baltimore County to farm there.
Tommy’s father, William Jennings Higgs, served in the Navy and was working at Bethlehem Steel when he met Dorothy.
They bought the farm where Tommy and Beth live now in the 1950s.
The farm is directly across the road from where Dorothy’s brother Carl lived and milked cows.
There were five brothers that worked on Higgs Brothers dairy, William, Eugene, Clifford, Tommy and Mike.
In an unfortunate farm accident, William died and the remaining four brothers continued the dairy operation until 2007.
The brothers now farm about 1,000 acres and have transitioned to raising beef cows.
Tommy and Beth met at the Higgs’ family pool, Beth was friends with Tommy’s cousin Sharon.
They both were involved in 4-H growing up and both knew what it was like growing up milking cows.
Their first date was going bowling and Tommy let Beth win.
They have been married 43 years and have raised three sons, Todd, married to Christy; Chris, married to Sarah; and Adam, married to Ashley.
“All three of our sons are married and have children; we are very proud of all three of our boys and we have been fortunate to have been able to raise them on the farm,” Beth said.
When asked how have they been successful in their marriage and living on the farm, Tommy said, “we respect each other and we fly under the radar, we are not concerned with the small things.”
“Our family is our proudest accomplishment, we have raised three good sons and we are still happy with each other,” Beth added.
Along with farming, the Higgs family has a long history with the Queen Anne’s County Fair.
Beth’s father, Dan Shortall, volunteered at the Queen Anne’s County 4-H Fair as a board member, helping with projects, and started the pedal tractor pull some 40 years ago.
After five years, Dan turned the tractor pull over to Tommy, who built more tractors for the adults along with a pulling sled.
Now 35 years later, it remains one of the most popular events at the fair.
While Tommy was involved with the Queen Anne’s County Young Farmers, they are credited with starting the tradition at the 4-H fair of the greased pig contest.
“Starting the greased pig contest was so much fun watching the kids chase pigs and enjoy themselves,” Tommy said. “We remember all of the fun we had at the fair with the outhouse races, combine demolition derby, tractor pulls and just being around other 4-H families.”
The Higgs family tradition continues at the fair, hosting and announcing both the tricycle races and pedal pull.
Tommy and Beth both said they would not change living on the farm. Tommy calls himself the man behind the wrenches: There is always something to be worked on, greased up or cleaned up.
“I’m grateful for being able to work with my brothers and watching how the farm has changed over time.” Tommy said. “The weather has been the most challenging thing to deal with over the years, but I’m glad we can’t control that.”
“We have both enjoyed the farm and raising our family here,” Beth added.
The fair runs Aug. 12-17 at the Queen Anne’s County 4-H Park, on 100 Dulin Clark Road.
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