Carroll County Farm Museum celebrates 50th anniversary

The Carroll County Farm Museum opened on Aug. 13, 1966 to preserve the county's agricultural traditions. Over the next year, the community will have several opportunities to celebrate the Westminster museum's 50th anniversary.

"We're the oldest and best example of agritourism in the area," said Farm Museum manager Joanne Weant. "So many people are removed from ag today. We want families to come here and see agriculture's past so that when they leave they can connect that to what they see going on in the fields around them."


As part of the celebration, Weant said the museum's mission statement, slogan and logo have been updated to reflect the ever changing museum.

The slogan is now "Promote. Preserve. Educate."

The mission statement has changed to "connecting our community through the preservation of our rural heritage."

The logo will still feature grapes to represent the Maryland Wine Festival and roses to represent the weddings held at the museum but the farmhouse has been substituted for the barn.

Weant said the museum's marketing has also been tweaked to appeal to families with children ages 1 to 12. A new exhibit space opened to the public in April. The room, located in the former Burns Library, allows children to play with items in the room's general store, dining room and kitchen.

"The Children's Touch Room is definitely part of it," Weant said. "It fits in with our goal to make the museum more accessible to children."

The museum has also partnered with Carroll County Public Schools and county government to allow free field trips to pre-K through grade 12 students.

"We've had student tours every day for the last two weeks [of May]," Weant said, adding. "It encourages them to come back with their families and to volunteer here to earn service learning hours."

Weant said the museum also partnered with Carroll Arts Council to create an anniversary exhibit, which will be on display June 14 through Aug. 5. Carroll County Artists' Guild members have produced artwork depicting the museum's bucolic landscapes, historic structures, peaceful animals and traditional farm tools.

In June, the museum will open a 50th anniversary multi-media exhibit which includes a visual timeline. The display will be located in the first room of the Living History Center's second floor and will remain there for the rest of the year, curator Stefanie Strosnider said.

"We wanted to include photos of the people that make museum possible as a way to say thanks," Strosnider said.

Weant said the museum's annual Fall Harvest Days in October will be the largest anniversary celebration.

"We've tied the 50th anniversary to Fall Harvest Days because it's our landmark festival," Weant said. "We offer a lot of things you can't see at other places. It's like a trip back in time. We want everybody to be part of the celebration."

Weant said admission to Fall Harvest Days will be free to thank the community for their support of the museum. This year, they plan to add a parade featuring car show exhibitors. Fall Harvest Days will also feature a large farm machinery display that includes historic and modern pieces, artisans creating historic crafts, a kids' costume contest and family friendly entertainment.


Retired University of Maryland Extension Carroll County agricultural agent and Hoff Barn Committee chairman Bob Jones, of Westminster, has volunteered at the museum since it was founded.

"It's a worthy project. Most people have no idea how the pioneer farmer worked. We want visitors to know what hard work it was," Jones said.

Throughout the years, exhibits like the smokehouse were easy to work up, Jones said, but getting all the pieces and the tools to display was difficult. He said he was very excited when the museum acquired the Marlin K. Hoff Log Barn. The barn was moved from Hoff's New Windsor farm to the museum in 2009. The barn dates back to the late 1700s and foresters estimate some of the trees used to build the barn were 225 years old when they were felled.

"Rather than seeing the Hoff Barn become furniture, Hoff offered it to the farm museum because he knew that was somewhere it would be preserved," Jones said. "Even though it took a good deal of money to replace the roof and make it historically accurate, we had 300 contributors that made it possible. One contributor was a 4-Her that sold his champion chicken."

Hoff Barn volunteer Bob Shirley, of Winfield, said he has really enjoyed volunteering and training guides.

"Volunteers make the whole farm museum come alive to visitors. I'm very pleased with the enthusiasm for the anniversary," Shirley said. "We want to keep it alive as an educational center and I think we're in beautiful shape. We're excited about all the events this year and we're seeing an astonishing number of visitors."

Elsie Baust, a member of the original farm museum board and former volunteer coordinator, recalled the first Fall Harvest Day in October 1966.

"It brought in many more people than I expected. It was very exciting. We had no idea what to expect and the people just kept coming," said Baust, of Westminster.

Baust said she hopes the museum continues to show the kind of things that went on in Carroll County farm life.

"There's so much there to see," she said. "The wormseed exhibit is definitely something people should see because it's special to Carroll County."

The museum's wormseed oil distillery project is located behind the museum's sawmill building and is a work in progress. According to Historical Society of Carroll County documents, there were 47 Carroll County wormseed distilleries in 1927 with annual production of 90,000 pounds. In the 1930s and '40s, wormseed was grown by more than 240 farmers in Carroll County. Wormseed, when processed into an oil, was the principal cure for hookworm disease in animals. The oil was also utilized as a wood preservative when painting Baltimore clippers. Due to modern synthetic medicine, wormseed is no longer considered a viable cash crop.

Farm Museum guide Bertha Shriner, of Westminster, said she became a volunteer when the museum first opened.

"It's just been a part of me for so long. I grew up on a farm and my father was a blacksmith," Shriner said. "It's just interesting and I feel connected to it. I hope visitors understand what it like was for people. I think it's hard for children to understand what it was like when I was growing up."

Bob Bullock, of Westminster, recalled butchering during the first Fall Harvest Day and making sausage and scrapple.

"Nothing's better than having a swelled crowd. It was so exciting. The spectators would circle around the kettles and the scrapple sold immediately," Bullock said. "It created a lot of interest and visitors really enjoyed it as well as the other activities."

Bullock, who is chairing the Farm Museum's 50th Anniversary Committee, said he's excited about the museum's future.

"We have a lot of history and heritage," he said. "It educates the children of what life was like back then. The exhibits all play a part to explain yesterday living.


"As a community, we're privileged to have such wonderful exhibits right in our backyard."

A timeline of the Carroll County Farm Museum

August 13, 1966: Opening Day at the Museum

October 1966: First Fall Harvest Days

1968: Miss World Contestants Visit the Farm Museum

1969: Inaugural Civil War Encampment

1975: Budweiser Clydesdales Visit Museum

1976: Bicentennial Parade and Celebration

1984: First Heritage/Ethnic Festival

1984: First Living History Camp

1986: Maryland Wine Festival Moves to the Farm Museum

1989: The Farm Museum Welcomes Its One Millionth Visitor

1991: Third Annual Beef Festival

2009: Hoff Barn Moved to the Farm Museum

2013: Maryland Wine Festival Celebrates 30th Anniversary

2014: Manager Dottie Freeman retires

Timeline created by museum curator Stefanie Strosnider