Old barns in farm country still hold a haymow full of value for people—to farmers themselves for their enduring practical value and to the general public for their symbolism of the glorious history of agriculture.
Historic barns were on display across Iowa last weekend as part of the Iowa Barn Foundation’s self-guided tour. The Foundation has provided grants and other assistance to bring scores of barns back to life in the state, both for practical use and for historic preservation.
The “Hanson Barn” I visited in central Iowa (photo above), near Mingo, brought back a lot of memories. It reminded me of a barn on my grandparents' farm, one destroyed by a tornado more than fifty years ago. I wish we still had it.
About two thirds of farmers own at least one barn that’s more than 50 years old, according to the most recent survey conducted by Successful Farming’s BARN AGAIN! program. In 2006, we learned, too, that more than half of farmers (53%) said their barns were “very important” to their farming operations. They use them every day. And they claim an average of $27,000 savings in rehabbing their old barns versus building new.
A key feature in the Hanson barn was the stabilization work that was completed about ten years ago. Workers installed seven 34-foot rodsets of 3/4-inch black steel in the haymow to pull the structure back together. Other repairs were made to beams, support posts and cross pieces. The relatively minimal work seems to have to have given the barn at least another fifty years of useful life.
Successful Farming and The National Trust for Historic Preservation initiated the BARN AGAIN! program in 1987 to study the status of American barns and provide information, awards, and demonstrations to encourage barn rehabilitation.
We’ll be celebrating the 25th birthday of the program in the January issue of Successful Farming with some barn-saving highlights and new guidelines for assessing rehabilitation costs. Please stay tuned!