Freeman to retire after 20 years as head of Farm Museum

On an October evening in 1966, Dottie Freeman and her husband, Dusty, took their two young daughters for a ride around town after deciding they needed some time outside of their Westminster apartment.

A short while later, they came across a concert with square dancing, food vendors and other entertainment.


Freeman didn't know it at the time, but she had stumbled upon the Carroll County Farm Museum's first Fall Harvest.

Nor did she know that nearly 20 years later, she would be applying for a job at the museum that would eventually lead to her becoming the head of operations.


"It's strange how things work out," Freeman said with a smile during a recent interview in her office at the Farm Museum.

The Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster, opened in August 1966, has grown to become a popular wedding venue, home of the state wine festival and popular field trip destination for local students, much under Freeman's supervision.

Freeman has served as the face of the Farm Museum since 1994 when she was promoted to administrator, but her tenure will soon be over. She announced Thursday that she would be stepping down in December.

Freeman acknowledged that it was a difficult decision for her.


But after consulting with friends who are retired, she came to the decision that it was the right time to step down and allow someone else to lead the Farm Museum.

"I think it would be good for someone to have the opportunity to see what they can do to enhance the farm museum," she said.

Freeman started at the Farm Museum as a secretary, group tour coordinator and camp coordinator in 1986. She then became an administrative assistant and then a marketing specialist before being promoted once again to manager of the farm museum.

"It was all a learning experience for me," she said.

Making her mark

For the past 28 years, Freeman has been putting her stamp on the Carroll County Farm Museum.

Freeman has been so influential in the evolution of Carroll's preservation of the past that the museum logo was her own design.

Featuring the historic Almshouse bracketed by roses and grapes — representing the museum's wedding venue and tradition of hosting the Maryland Wine Festival since 1985 — Freeman said she wanted to capture the farm museum's focal points when she created the logo in the early '90s.

"You can't mention the Farm Museum without having Dottie's name associated with it," said Bonnie Staub, manager of the Carroll County Office of Tourism.

Previously under the county department of recreation and parks, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted in November to move the Farm Museum under the auspices of the tourism department, meaning that the museum would be open year-round.

"The short amount of time that she's worked under tourism, she's been great to work with," Staub said.

Previously, the Farm Museum was only open to the public in July and August and for school tours throughout the year.

"It's getting busier," Freeman said of the number of visitors since the change was made.

For Jack Lyburn, director of the Carroll County Department of Economic Development, Freeman "is the Farm Museum."

"She's done an unbelievable of job marketing it," he said. "Everyone in the state respects her."

Lyburn specifically pointed to the growing attendance at Farm Museum events, such as the wine festival, which attracts more than 20,000 people each year, and the educational focus of exhibits as Freeman's greatest accomplishments.

"We're going to miss her," Lyburn said. "We can't replace her. You're never going to be able to replace Dottie."


As Freeman prepares to leave the farm museum, her hope is that Carroll's window into the past remains an educational playground for the community.

After all, her favorite aspect of the job has been watching young museum visitors learn and enjoy their time at the museum.

"They don't know it, but they're getting a history lesson once they walk through the gates," she said.

Joanne Morvay Weant, an agriculture development specialist with the Carroll County Department of Economic Development, has been named to be Freeman's successor, Lyburn said.

Weant, whose family operates a dairy farm outside of Taneytown, said she was honored to be offered the position.

"I know I have very big shoes to fill because Dottie has dedicated so much of her life to the Farm Museum," Weant said. "The museum is such a unique opportunity. I am really looking forward to working with staff there as the museum continues to grow."

As the Farm Museum has grown over Freeman's tenure, she's seen the popularity of the wine festival expand, exhibits added all over the museum's campus and has even had the Budweiser Clydesdales visit multiple times.

"The bottom line, everything was a memory maker," she said.

Reach staff writer Blair Ames at 410-857-7874 or email blair.ames@carrollcountytimes.com.

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