News Column

Farm museum could soon be home to two oxen

August 20, 2014

By Blair Ames, Carroll County Times, Westminster, Md.

Aug. 20--Before Karen Butler began a two-day training session on how to care for oxen at Sanborn Mills Farm in New Hampshire, she asked her instructors for the worst behaved team of oxen.

"I wanted to experience the things that could go wrong and learn how to deal with them," Butler recalled in a recent interview.

Throughout the two-day course, the Middleburg resident had an opportunity to work with a variety of oxen weighing anywhere from 500 pounds to over a ton.

She even had a chance to work with the worst-behaved team, and like the rest of her experiences at the farm in Loudon, N.H., Butler said "it was a blast."

It's been decades since oxen grazed Carroll County pastures, but the beasts of burden soon could be calling the Carroll County Farm Museum home.

While the details are still in flux and the entire project is somewhat up in the air, the Hoff Barn Committee has taken the first step toward bringing oxen to Carroll, sending committee volunteers Butler and Don Hoff to a two-day training session to learn how to properly care for them.

The Hoff Barn Committee -- the group responsible for organizing the move of the Hoff Barn to the Carroll County Farm Museum in 2009 -- could purchase a pair of oxen as soon as this fall and house them at the farm museum.

Bob Shirley, chair of the group's education committee, views the oxen as enhancing the farm museum's educational opportunities and presenting a "big draw" for the public to visit the museum.

"This will make the farm museum come alive," Shirley said. "When you get live animals in here, it's much more alive than when you walk in and just see an exhibit."

In the next few months, the Hoff Barn Committee will be considering whether to purchase oxen, and Shirley said he's hopeful this project becomes a reality sooner rather than later.

The tentative plan is to house the oxen inside the Hoff Barn from spring through fall and with a volunteer farmer throughout the winter, according to Shirley.

On the weekends, Shirley said the committee would like to see the oxen used for demonstrations of old farming methods.

Shirley estimated a pair of oxen would cost about $2,500, and the Hoff Barn Committee would like to keep the pair through their lives.

Tuition for the training program cost $300 per person, he said.

For Butler, having live oxen at the farm museum is something that will grab people's attention and provide a different type of learning experience.

"It will really put into context what may have happened around the Hoff Barn in the late 18th century," she said.

Reach staff writer Blair Ames at 410-412-4880 or


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Source: Carroll County Times (Westminster, MD)

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