CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners, Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Governor’s Office and local legislators will honor Tommy and Beth Higgs and their family as the Farm Family of the Year at the 2019 Queen Anne’s County Fair Wednesday night, Aug. 14, at the 4-H Park. Tommy and Beth Higgs have a lifetime of agricultural history.
Beth’s maiden name was Shortall; the Shortall family farmed in Talbot County near Tunnis Mills until her grandfather Shortall met Beth’s grandmother and they moved to Queen Anne’s County, near the town of Ruthsburg, to begin their own operation. The Shortall family milked cows until around 1963, then decided to sell the cows and build chicken houses. The chicken houses were built on a farm where Tommy and Beth’s son, Chris and daughter-in-law, Sarah, now live. Beth, her three sisters and brother all played in the barn during milking time, but she said she wasn’t strong enough to pick up the milk buckets because they were “just too heavy.”
Beth’s father, Dan, always volunteered at the 4-H Fair either on the board, helping with projects, and starting the pedal pull around 40 years ago. Dan brought in a few pedal tractors for the kids to pull a weighted sled. Dan turned the tractor pull over to Tommy 35 years ago; Tommy built more tractors for the adults along with a pulling sled. It is one of the most popular events at the Fair.
Tommy’s mother, Dorothy Eck, lived in Baltimore County, where her family farmed. Her brother bought a farm in Queen Anne’s County, where they milked cows. The Ecks would milk the cows and then jump on a two-seater plane and fly back to Baltimore County to farm there. Tommy’s father, Eugene, was in the Navy, then worked at Bethlehem Steel when he met Dorothy. They bought the farm in the 1950s, where Tommy and Beth live now. 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 perished; the remaining four brothers continued the dairy operation until 2007. The brothers farm about 1,000 acres and have transitioned over 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, of course ,Tommy said he let Beth win.
They have been married 43 years and raised three sons, Todd (Christy), Chris (Sarah) and Adam (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 said with a smile.
While Tommy was involved with the young famers, they decided to begin the greased pig contest, now an ongoing tradition at the 4-H Fair.
“Starting the greased pig contest was so much fun, watching the kids chase pigs and enjoy themselves,” Beth said.
They said they remember all of the fun they 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 emceeing the tricycles race and pedal pull, listening to the crowd cheering on the little kids and “big kids” in the tricycle races makes for a great evening, they said.
Tommy and Beth both said they would not change living on the farm. Tommy called himself the man behind the wrenches. There is always something to be worked on, greased up or cleaned up.
Tommy said, “I’m grateful for being able to work with my brothers and watching how the farm has changed over time. 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 said.