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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Farm Museum to reorganize under Office of Tourism

The organizational structure of the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster will change in November, despite the fact that the manager and board of governors of the facility did not ask that a change be made.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 earlier this month to move the Farm Museum from under the county's Department of Recreation and Parks to the Carroll County Office of Tourism beginning Nov. 1. Commissioner Dave Roush, R-District 3, did not attend the Aug. 8 meeting and could not vote on the proposal.

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The organizational change was made at the behest of former county commissioner Donald Dell and Bob Jones, two men not currently associated with the leadership of the Farm Museum.

Dell said during a phone interview with the Carroll County Times that there have been activities, like bicycle rides and running events, being held on the farm museum property that are not related to agriculture or the museum. If he had his way, Dell said events that did not focus on farming and agriculture would not be held at the museum or the grounds.

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"It should be maintained as an information center for the history of agriculture in the county, not as a park," Dell said.

Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, R-District 2, said he agreed with the argument that the farm museum would be better suited under the Office of Tourism, and more broadly under the Carroll County Department of Economic Development. The department has more resources needed to promote the Farm Museum as a tourist attraction.

"It just seemed like a more logical fit to me," Shoemaker said.

The commissioners did not discuss plans to stop having non-agriculture events at the Farm Museum during the Aug. 8 meeting. County staff are in the process of preparing detailed plans for transitioning the Farm Museum to the Office of Tourism.

Dottie Freeman, superintendent of the Farm Museum, said the idea of changing the organizational structure of the facility did not come from her or the museum's board of governors. Freeman would not comment on whether she believed the move was a good idea.

"We just go where [commissioners] tell us to go," Freeman said. "We'll keep working as hard as we've been working as staff of the Farm Museum."

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John Sies, president of the Farm Museum's board of governors, said during the Aug. 8 commissioners meeting that the majority of the members of the board of governors did not know the organizational change was being considered. Sies said he wouldn't argue against or for the proposed organizational change.

Jones, a former ex-officio member of the museum's board of governors, said he's pleased that the Farm Museum will be under the county's Office of Tourism. The office, Jones said, will be able to put a greater focus on bringing people to the Farm Museum and making it a star attraction in the county.

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"They need to use the Farm Museum as the centerpiece of tourism in Carroll County," Jones said. "Then you dovetail [the Farm Museum] with all the excellent areas that would be interesting in tourism ... . There's unlimited possibilities for Carroll County to be an outstanding place to visit, but it needs to be integrated together."

Having the Farm Museum under the county's Department of Recreation and Parks was a "mis-marriage," Jones said. The mission of the Farm Museum of bringing Carroll's agricultural legacy to people would be better served by the Office of Tourism, he said.

"The Parks and Recreation Department is equipped to do an excellent job with parks and recreation but not equipped very well to do integrated tourism in Carroll County," Jones said.

The Farm Museum is a unique facility, said Jeff Degitz, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks. And his department, he said, is capable of taking care of it. The department prides itself in having a variety of recreational activities at the sites they manage, Degitz said.

"I'd prefer not to discuss my feelings on [the organizational change]," Degitz said. "Obviously, each board of county commissioners has the opportunity and ability to set up the organization however they see fit and however they feel things will work best. We support those decisions."


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