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A beacon light barn

Agriculture.com Staff 07/07/2010 @ 9:07am

Leo Fitzpatrick of Beaverton, Michigan, can talk at length about the value of old barns and how much they mean to his family history. "The farm would not look the same without the barn that Grandpa built so long ago. It stands like a beacon light at the center of the farm now operated by his great-grandsons," he says.

Beyond his sense of history, Fitzpatrick has a farmer's practical approach to barn preservation. His renovation project took nine years of careful planning, labor, and some strategic investment.

By doing much of the work himself, he held costs down to $14,000. A new building of such size and utility would run much more -- as much as $50,000 or $60,000, he says.

The 88-year-old barn is now used for straw storage, as well as housing for machinery and tools. More than 8,000 bales have been stacked in the haymow.

Fitzpatrick's successful renovation, which involved a new roof, structural reinforcement, and painting, made him this year's winner of the 2004 BARN AGAIN! Farm Heritage award.

Each year, Successful Farming magazine and the National Trust for Historic Preservation present BARN AGAIN! awards to farm and ranch families who have preserved their historic agricultural buildings and use them in their daily operations. Six Recognition Awards are also made in the annual contest.

Leo Fitzpatrick of Beaverton, Michigan, can talk at length about the value of old barns and how much they mean to his family history. "The farm would not look the same without the barn that Grandpa built so long ago. It stands like a beacon light at the center of the farm now operated by his great-grandsons," he says.

Though the Fitzpatricks' old barn had well-served four generations, by 1990 it showed signs of wear and tear. "Like many barns, repairs and a new roof were long overdue," he says. "The roof in one place was settled down by 17 inches."

A new metal roof, fresh paint job, and plenty of structural reinforcement made Leo Fitzpatrick's round-roofed barn ready for another century of service on the family farm in Beaverton, Michigan.

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