September marks the 50th All-American Dairy Show, and since the first event in 1964, six Pennsylvania farm families have remained fixtures in the show ring and behind the scenes. They are the Yoder family of Pinesedge Farm, Shoemakersville, Berks County; Patrick family of Maple Dell Farm, Woodbine, Md.; Marchezak family of Bentleyville, Washington County; Gable family of Snider Homestead Farm, New Enterprise, Bedford County; Stiles family of Spring Valley Farm, Westminster, Md.; and Shank family of Palmyra Farm, Hagerstown, Md. Each family will be recognized in a feature story as the show approaches.
The All-American Dairy Show features 22 shows in six days in addition to the nation's only all-dairy antiques show. Last year's show featured nearly 2,500 animals and more than 900 exhibitors from across the nation.
David Patrick of Woodbine, Md., started showing cows when he was 11 years old. His family farm was home to a herd of mixed grade cows hardly show stock. To get him started in the show ring, Patrick's father purchased two purebred Ayrshire heifers and an Ayrshire bull. Maple Dell Ayrshires was born.
"Money was tight and my father made a sacrifice to get me started," said Patrick.
New to the show circuit, Patrick and his brother Jimmy sought the help of neighbors Alan, Buddy and Norman Hill of Wauwatosa Farms. "Buddy worked with us and showed us how to clip," recalled Patrick. "I'm grateful for having the chance to grow up beside one of the best show herds in the country."
A Show is Born
When the All-American Dairy Show opened for the first time in 1964, the Patricks, now experienced exhibitors, were some of the first to sign up.
"Showing is in my blood," added Patrick. "It gives the opportunity to view and appreciate a quality animal and is a true measurement of your own cattle against the best in the country. How well you do is a barometer of your breeding program and where its focus should migrate in the future."
Over the decades, the All-American Dairy Show proved profitable for Maple Dell as the animals earned many first place ribbons, several Premier Breeder and Exhibitor awards and Junior and Reserve Junior Champion and Grand and Reserve Grand Champion banners.
Some of their best cows include Maple Dell Scandal's Pearl, Maple Dell IRS Sweetnine, Maple Dell Trident Song and Maple Dell Zorro Dafourth. One All-American Dairy Show highlight was the year four Maple Dell bulls the calf, yearling, two-year-old and aged bull won the Produce of Dam class. While the Ayrshire breed has always been a sentimental favorite for Patrick, several Maple Dell Holsteins have competed well in the show ring also.
Continuing the Tradition
Patrick and his wife Ann married in 1954 and raised seven children on Maple Dell Farm: Michael, Denny, Johnny, Terri, Kathy, Carol and Rhonda. David is in partnership with Michael and Denny, with the majority of the farm's management in his sons' hands. Together they milk 170 Holsteins and Ayrshires and farm 1,200 acres.
"My father turned the management over to my brother Jimmy and me at a young age, and I can do the same with my boys," said Patrick, admitting he and Ann still enjoy being involved in the operation. He is also an AI technician for Select Sire Power.
Maple Dell is one of only three farms left in Howard County, but Patrick is passing the showing tradition to the next generation. Six of his 12 grandchildren show cattle.
His daughters Carol and Rhonda are Howard County 4-H Dairy Club leaders. They help members of their dairy club, about 65 non-farm kids, exhibit leased animals.
Known as a master showman, other exhibitors enjoy observing Patrick's quiet control in the ring. He credits fellow dairyman Sam Dehil as a mentor.
"To become a good showman, you have to watch other exceptional showmen and Sam was that person for me. I truly admired his style and show ring abilities," said Patrick.
Patrick said one of the best places to watch up-and-coming exhibitors, and for younger exhibitors to learn from their peers, is in the Youth Showmanship Contest at the All-American. "It is one of the best fitting and showmanship contests in the country."
"You see the true character of a person in the show ring," he added. "It takes a true man to stand at both ends with grace. And while I admit it is more fun at the top, I've stood at both ends and try to do so in good character."
Patrick's dedication to the All-American is evident. Outside of the show ring, Patrick served as the Ayrshire representative to the show's board of directors for two terms and was honored with the show's prestigious Obie Snider Award in 2006.
"The All-American is an exhibitor-friendly show, with the facilities and the people being the key reasons that people come back every year," said Patrick.
Patrick also enjoys the fellowship with other breeders afforded by exhibiting at the All-American. "I like meeting up with show friends that are only seen once or twice a year."
Always an advocate for the All-American Dairy Show, Patrick said, "The All-American has, does and will continue to grant the chance for the best cattle in the country to be shown and appreciated."