Although he's just five years old, Gio Iadicicco knows his way around a potato.
In a recent 4-H sponsored contest, Iadicicco grew 2.4 pounds of potatoes, besting his older sister Kathryn's crop by mere ounces.
Their father Nick, was surprised at how well the children's bucket potatoes grew.
"I thought they were dead. This is the first time we did this but I do raised bed gardens," said Nick Iadicicco.
This year, about 75 4-H members from clubs throughout the county participated in The annual Great Potato Contest sponsored by the Calvert Boys & Girls 4-H Club.
Ellen Larrimore, a 4-H volunteer and club leader, explained how the contest works. The contest lasts months - starting in March and ending in September. During that time, children and teens grow white and sweet potatoes at home. During the contest finale, the buckets are dumped and the rewards are reaped.
There are three age groups of competitors in both white and sweet potato growing; 4-7, 8-10, and 11-18. The two younger age groups are each given one white potato and one pot for growing. The older children receive three pounds of potatoes to start. For the sweet potato category, which was just added last year, the younger children get one potato and the older children get a half dozen.
They are permitted to use any soil of growing method they choose.
Larrimore said The Great Potato Contest is similar to a school science project. The children learn to identify pests, and the dangers of both over watering and and not watering enough.
Justin Ward, 13, shared his secrets. "I used ash and chicken manure. We just planted them and watered them and let nature take its course," said Ward. He also said that he grew a sweet potato for the first time.
Tarra Todd, 10, said the white potatoes need water and plenty of dirt. "I had to be more careful with the sweet potato," Todd said. "Growing your own food is better than going to the grocery store."
When Bob Durgin was a young member of 4-H back in the 1960s, he participated in the potato contest. Only then, it was sponsored by a Kiwanis Club.
"I grew up on a farm in Cecil County. The Kiwanis did this in the 1960s. They had a banquet. This is a revival," said Durgin.
Now he's an adult and a 4-H All Star. He comes back to help with the potato contest. "This is how I give back," said Durgin.
Mark Barczewski is also a 4-H All Star. He volunteered to help weigh potatoes and loaned his digital scale to the cause.
In addition to the weight winners, there was also a contest for funniest looking potato, and heaviest single potato. As part of the event, a dinner is held. The only requirement for the covered dish meal is that every dish must contain potatoes in some form. Items served up included tater tot casserole, sweet potato pie, potato salad, sweet potato chips, and more.