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Oct 31, 2015

Why do Farmers Take Down Old Barns?

This post is sponsored by Indiana Family of Farmers

Do you ever wonder why farmers take down beautiful, historical barns? As a farmer and member of the Indiana Barn Foundation, I get asked this question a lot.
This subject is a hard one for me to swallow. I understand the farmer's perspective but I also understand the one of a historical preservationist.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Last Chance for Indiana Barns, barns built before 1950 are falling at an alarming rate. Historical barns are no longer practical for today's production agriculture needs. As more and more people have moved off the farm and into the city, current farmers have taken on the burden of producing more and more. Livestock herds and machinery sizes have grown tremendously in the last 60 years.

I often hear that farmers are "selfish" for buying ground with an old barn on it and just knocking it down. I don't necessarily see the person performing the common act of tearing down an old barn as selfish.

A farmer or property owner has to look at their financial well being. If you own a barn that is falling in, you have a dangerous structure on your property that puts you at a liable risk if yourself or someone were to get hurt.

One may have an appreciation for barns like I do, but may not want to put the funds necessary in the restoration. It truly is a tough, financial decision to make and that's why I understand it. 

Just to give you an idea of the financial burden to put a new roof on a barn, you are looking at anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. To repaint a barn properly, you are looking at $8,000 plus. 

By this point, we are close to $40,000 in the hole just on a roof and paint.

Now, look at the home where you live. Let's say it needs a new roof as well.

If you only had enough to repair one structure, your home or your barn, which one are you going to choose? 

More than likely your home.

To put things in perspective financially, owning a barn is like owning a second home.

When it comes to maintaining and keeping a historical barn on a farm, a family really has to plan ahead and make it a priority whether they want to preserve the family's or agriculture's history. We all have our own reasonings for wanting to keep an old barn around. It's human nature to get very sentimental over a structure we once lived in or used. 

A barn needs regular maintenance just like your home would. Most families put money back for a new roof, maybe an addition or in case an appliance goes out. The same must be done for barn maintenance.

The rising popularity in old barn wood siding and hand hewn beams has really caused a lot of problems the last few years. It has increased the amount of barns that are being taken down. Investors in this type of wood are hunting down old barns and paying farmers a nice chunk of change for it. I would rather see the wood get used then burn up in a pile, but this popular trend still upsets me.

What I would rather see done is have the farmer or property owner wait for an investor who would like to have the barn moved to a different location where it can still be used and enjoyed. Barns are an important part to our Hoosier landscape. 

Various organzations are looking to serve as a resource to match up barn owners with investors looking to turn a barn into a home, winery, business or even keep it as a barn. One of the organizations happens to be the Indiana Barn Foundation. Through awareness and making connections, the Indiana Barn Foundation is looking to save barns one at a time.

So, I get it. I get why farmers take old barns down. However, as we move forward into the future and realize what we are leaving behind, I hope that more barn owners take a more responsible route when it comes to removing a barn from their property. 

After all, it's a decision that's up to the barn owner. We cannot control property that is not ours but we can politely influence and educate.

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