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Cecil farmer adds special events to operation
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
EARLEVILLE, Md. (Jan. 12, 2016) — Chris Hahn never expected to be involved in the business side of weddings and special events, but taking a chance on buying a farm and large historic home has put him there.
Hahn, new owner of The Anchorage, an 11-bedroom home dating back to 1710, and its surrounding farmland, also farms about 1,200 acres and plays a large role in his grandfather Mike Sheeler’s seed dealership, Sheeler Seeds.
Hahn said the Anchorage property had been for sale for years started to seriously consider buying it two years ago when a good crop year and a desire to expand his farming operation got him thinking differently.
“You drove by it all the time and thought, ‘Man, I’d like to get that piece’ but never thought it would happen,” Hahn said.
His initial intention was just to buy the farmland and not the house but when that that was not to be an option, he still “took the chance” and finalized the purchase on the 183 acre property in October 2014.
He said from listening to older farmers who regretted passing on opportunities to buy farmland when they were younger, he didn’t want to have the same feeling.
“I’ve heard people say ‘I wish I started younger, I wish I took the chance,’” said Hahn, who will turn 36 this month. “I didn’t want to look back and say, “I should have done that.’”
It’s also unique, Hahn said, that the Lusby family who built the first part of the house in 1710 and it was the same family that once owned Sheeler’s farm, Greenfields, in nearby Cecilton, Md.
“That’s pretty cool to have it tied in that way on my behalf,” Hahn said.
The Anchorage was previously operated as a bed and breakfast but Hahn said he wasn’t interested in continuing that business.
So along with more acres in his crop rotation, he picked weddings and special events as a way to make the home generate revenue.
The house was extensively renovated in 2002 including a 4-bedroom addition.
“Weddings and events are big on the Eastern Shore,” Hahn said, ticking off other nearby enues that have blossomed in the on-farm wedding surge. “The destination wedding thing and a farm setting, that’s big right now.”
With an event scheduler working part-time for Hahn, The Anchorage hosted one wedding and several other events in 2015. Six weddings are booked for this year, along with other smaller rentals.
“It’s come together pretty decent. Just getting the name out there is important,” he said.
The house sleeps 22 people and Hahn said a wedding party renting the whole house for a weekend or longer is its ideal use, but the rooms are also available separately or not at all, opting for just the home’s common areas and grounds to hold an event.
“If it’s worth my while, I’ll make it work,” he said on being flexible. “I’ll do what I have to do.”
The inside of the house only needed some minor things, new paint mostly. “Just kind of spruced everything up,” Hahn said.
Outside, however, the yard had overgrown and needed a lot more attention.
Hahn increased the size of the yard to better accommodate a large tent for events.
And then there were all the efforts — website, social media, vendors, advertising, pricing, etc. — that go into the marketing plan, completely different from selling the agricultural commodities he was used to.
“I’m still learning and it’s ever changing,” he said. “The first year was mostly getting it to where I wanted it. It’s taken up my extra time that I had in the slower farming months.”
Some of that added time goes to Hahn’s meticulous attention to detail to keep a good reputation for the venue.
“My name’s on the line. I have to make sure everything is right,” he said. “Even in farming, I try to make sure nothing’s out of place.”