Howard County’s Antique Farm Machinery Club will host its 29th annual auction at the Howard County Fairgrounds parking lot Saturday. The only difference with this year’s auction, though, is where the proceeds go.

The auction is the farm club’s largest fundraiser each year, and many of the proceeds would typically go to their once brick-and-mortar Living Heritage Farm Museum, which existed for 18 years, said the club’s president, John Frank.

But since the county terminated the museum’s lease last year, all proceeds will go to the club’s public education, outreach and agricultural programs.

Frank said they’ve navigated the auction without a museum site before, because they hosted the auction for nine years before they acquired the museum grounds.

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“Now we’re back in that mode again,” he said. “There’s plenty of activities, school related programs and outreach, educational outdoor school things, and that sort of stuff that requires funding. ... . So there’s plenty of opportunity for us to focus the money on our mission, which is to continue to preserve, educate and protect our agricultural history.”

The items available are dependent on what the farm club gets from consignments in the three days prior to the auction, Frank said.

In past years, Frank said, available pieces included anything from farm equipment to household goods to cars, trailers, trucks and even emus — yes, the ostrich-like animal.

“We were kind of surprised at that, too,” Frank said. “But we had multiple bidders on them, people were interested. … They tell me they taste just like chicken.”

Typically, he said, the auction grosses more than $200,000, and that goes to the people who consigned items, with the farm club getting a percentage of the total.

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The actual farm museum items are not up for auction, he said.

Meanwhile farm club members were tasked with removing all the items by the end of May from the museum that sat on county-owned land in West Friendship Park.

Frank said that he’s confident they will get all the museum’s items out on time, as they move them into storage sheds and homes that people have volunteered.

For the future of the museum, however, Frank said they haven’t found a new location, but “we hit the ground running in that regard. And we still do that to this day, so we’re networking, and we’re talking to people, and then we’ll just have to see what the future has.”

Once the farm museum is moved out, the county will use the land to house the county’s new Office of Agriculture, County Executive Calvin Ball previously said at a press conference.

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The agriculture office will be the county’s first and the state’s third, and it will promote farming in the county, Ball said. But because the land is so vast, there will be other uses for the 340-plus acres.

The hundreds of acres include trails for running, biking, dog walking and bird-watching, and the recreation and parks department will maintain the trails and eventually add indoor and outdoor archery facilities, restrooms and possibly sites for camping, Nick Mooneyhan, the agency’s director, said.

To discuss other possible uses of the land “that will support Howard County agriculture and education,” Ball created a 23-person focus group last month, according to a March 14 press release.

The group met at West Friendship Park, where they brainstormed ideas for future uses of the land, said Safa Hira, director of communications for Howard County government.

“Some suggested constructing an Agricultural Center to include space for services to be provided to the farming community, along with meeting rooms and displays on the history of Agriculture in Howard County,” Hira said in a statement. “Members also spoke to the need for cold/freezer storage facilities for farmers, demonstration areas for agricultural conservation practices, recreational horse-riding space. Programmatic suggestions included beginning farmer programs like 4H, and broad agricultural education offerings, including space for training and seminars.”

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The group will meet at least one more time in the next two months to create a list of ways the land can be used, as well as agricultural programs at West Friendship Park.

Ball and the Department of Recreation & Parks will use the list and to determine the feasibility of the suggestions.

Abby Zimmardi is a reporter covering Howard County for The Baltimore Banner. Zimmardi earned her master’s degree from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism in December 2022.

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