Rhodes new Miss Maryland Agriculture
TIMONIUM, Md. — As a high school junior, an assignment in Melyn Rhodes’ biotechnology class led her to research and dispel misconceptions about genetically modified food.
“I really wanted to clear those up,” Rhodes, now a college freshman, said last week. She said that led to her pursuing the truth behind other misconceptions in agriculture, an informational journey she detailed in her speech Aug. 22 as a contestant in the Miss Maryland Agriculture contest.
Participating with 20 other young women representing their county Farm Bureaus, Rhodes won the title during the 80th annual contest that kicked off Maryland State Fair.
“I was just stunned,” Rhodes said recalling her reaction to winning. “I was in shock.”
The Miss Maryland Agriculture contest is held each year by Maryland Farm Bureau and Maryland State Fair. Competitors are selected at the local level to serve as ambassadors for the county Farm Bureau.
Young agriculturalists represented 21 counties in the two-day contest, participating in round-table discussions, first impression scenarios, and public speaking. With title, Rhodes was awarded scholarship and cash awards valued up to $13,000. As Miss Maryland Agriculture 2019, her responsibilities will continue throughout the year, as she will participate in a number of activities representing Maryland agriculture.
Joining her court this year is 1st Runner Up Sydney Garner of Charles County, 2nd Runner Up Olivia Scuderi of Montgomery County, 3rd Runner Up Sara VanRyswick of St. Mary’s County, and 4th Runner Up Sydnie Grossnickle of Frederick County.
In March, Rhodes was named Miss Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau and quickly began efforts to make people more aware of the county’s farming sector, including county commissioners.
“I just wanted to educate our youth and have a voice in Queen Anne’s County,” she said. “A lot of people don’t understand that agriculture is essential to our survival. Now I’m excited to do that on a state level.”
Queen Anne’s County is the first in the program’s 80-year history to have two consecutive Miss Maryland Agriculture titles with Bailey Riggs of Centreville as last year’s winner. A county representative has won the title in three of the last five years.
Rhodes is the daughter of Gregory and Melinda Rhodes and lives on a 7-acre farm in Millington.
She has two brothers, Lyle Hammer and Greg Rhodes. As a 4-H member, she raised diary goats for 8 years.
With her mother, Melinda, a club leader, she said she was exposed to the youth development program long before she could officially join.
“Really, 4-H was in my blood,” she said. “I was probably going to meetings before I could walk.”
Now the Rhodes family keeps horses for riding on the farm.
She has been actively involved in FFA at her high school, participating in horse evaluation, public speaking and agronomy programs and holding several officer positions including vice president.
“I fit in in FFA. It was not a club, it was a family,” she said.
Days after being named Miss Maryland Agriculture, Rhodes started her college career at Chesapeake College, studying General Agriculture and radiology technology.
She said she knew she wanted to work in the medical field but her interest in building relationships with people and promoting agriculture led her to include agriculture as a study focus.
“I’m just excited about it all in general but I’m really excited about having a voice in agriculture,” she said.
First Runner Up Garner of Newburg is the daughter of Brent and Nichole Garner.
Her family owns 2,000 acres of farmland, growing small grains and livestock. Sydnie currently serves as president of her 4-H club and represented Maryland on the winning team at the National 4-H Skillathon competition.
Second Runner Up Scuderi of Gaithersburg is the daughter of Vince and Stephanie Scuderi. Olivia is a member of the Montgomery Sheep and Swine Club and president of the Damascus Livestock group. She raises Southdown, Hampshire, and Hog Island sheep.
Third Runner Up VanRyswick of Leonardtown is the daughter of Michael and Mary VanRyswick.
She lives on her family’s 100-acre farm where they raise pigs, beef cattle, grain, and hay. Sara grew up actively involved in 4-H and enjoys sharing her passion for agriculture with local students through a farm to school program.
Fourth Runner Up Grossnickle of Union Bridge is the daughter of Robert and Lydia Grossnickle. Sydnie grew up on her family’s dairy farm, raising jersey cattle and grain.
She currently attends Frederick Community College and previously served as the Maryland Dairy Princess and president of Maryland FFA.
In her farewell address, 2018 Miss Maryland Agriculture Bailey Riggs said she will continue to promote agriculture in Maryland and beyond. She is attending school at James Madison University this fall.
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