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BARN AGAIN!: Before and after

Agriculture.com Staff Updated: 01/24/2013 @ 3:26pm

By Mary Humstone and John Walter

BARN AGAIN! has been around for 25 years, but there's never been a barn rehab quite as remarkable as the one undertaken by Roy and Karin Clinesmith of Benge, Washington. Hoping for financial assistance from the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation, the Clinesmiths set out to fix up their former dairy barn and use it for storing equipment. They were awarded a grant from the state agency in February 2010 – and then the roof collapsed. Undeterred, they enlisted the help of neighbors and friends, including a local crane operator who had once milked cows in the barn.


In a dramatic rescue operation, the crane lifted the center section of the roof off of the walls and held it up for two weeks while the barn was rebuilt underneath it. The heavy timber frame was repaired, walls were lifted upright, and the roof was gently lowered back down. After repairs to the roof, some siding replacement, and rebuilt windows and doors, the barn is back in use and is a major historic attraction in Adams County.

When Successful Farming magazine and the National Trust for Historic Preservation teamed up to launch BARN AGAIN! in 1986, farmers were asked for their ideas on the best ways to save older farm buildings. BARN AGAIN! created a contest, offering cash awards to farmers who had rehabbed their older barns for new or continued farming use. More than 500 farmers responded – not only completing the contest form but also sending along scrapbooks, essays, poems, and family photos. Because of this outpouring of interest, the one-year program became a long-term commitment.

Over the past 25 years, the program has shared innovative ideas from farmers about new uses for older barns and has developed technical information to help guide the barn rehabilitation process from roof to foundation. Along the way, the program inspired hundreds of individual barn owners to fix up their barns, and it helped states and counties develop their own barn preservation programs.

Still going strong

To find out how the award-winning barns have weathered the years since that initial program, Successful Farming magazine recently conducted a survey of 188 BARN AGAIN! award winners from 1988 to 2009. The majority of respondents say they continue to use their barns, primarily for traditional farming uses such as livestock, machinery storage, and hay or grain storage. New uses include a feed mill, seed processing, packing produce, Christmas tree sales and wreath making, farm market, carpentry/woodworking shop, and weddings.

Furthermore, 70% say their barn is “always in use” and “very important” to their farming operation. All but three say the barn is important to their family “for personal or aesthetic reasons.”

Old barns reborn

In the true spirit of BARN AGAIN!, Eugene and Jeff Marshall of Elm Creek, Nebraska, write, “We take great pride in the fact that we preserved a local landmark and yet have upgraded the facilities to be a modern working cattle facility.”

Others demonstrated the versatility of older barns. Like many farmers in the 1980s, Dan Dykstra of Wayland, Michigan, had converted his barn for hog farrowing at the time of his award. “The hogs are gone, and now the barn houses a feed mill for making feed for turkeys. About 8,000 tons a year of feed is made in the barn,” he writes.

Former hog farmer Curtis Pilgrim of Thomson, Illinois, converted his barn into a first-rate woodworking shop. “It smells a lot better these days,” he jokes.

Most award winners have been motivated to improve their barns more because of their importance to a family history or their status as local landmarks than by the money saved over building new. As Pat and Ron Hartman of Elgin, Illinois, put it, “The barn is our claim to fame.”

For some, barns are poignant but loving memorials. Kevin Gowdy of Cades, South Carolina, writes, “My father has since died. This was a labor of love for him. Every time I look at these barns, I think of him.”


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One Disagreement 02/09/2013 @ 2:26pm I thoroughly enjoyed this article...well, almost. The statement found under FIND THE RIGHT PERSON [ "If a contractor suggests you tear your barn down, that's a good sign he doesn't know how to approach a rehab project. Say goodbye and interview the next one." ] is just a little bit on the hasty side --in my opinion. As a licensed, bonded, & insured contractor who's company specializes in restoring & repairing old barns & buildings, I must say that there are PLENTY of structures (including barns) out there that are just not "restorable". While repair & restoration should ALWAYS be the first option, painting a contractor who suggests "tear it down" as incompetent is not really fair --to the contractor OR to the owner. The idea that any & every structure can be restored --romantic as it may sound-- is often times unrealistic and unaffordable. The cost involved in restoring an old barn sometimes far exceeds that of demo and new construction of a more user-friendly structure. In other words, restoration is not always the best option for the farmer/rancher's budget. Also, budget cuts in many states have drastically-reduced funding available for such projects, historic though the structure may be. I have personally encountered this on 3 very beautiful barns in the NW over the last year. The point is that to completely dismiss any contractor who suggests the "tear-down" option is not exactly helpful to anyone. While it is true that repairing and restoring old barns requires the right person who understands the process involved, as well as the goal envisioned, SOMETIMES the restoration option is just NOT FEASIBLE. In these cases, it is often much better for the farmer or rancher to consider having the structure professionally dismantled by a licensed and insured contractor. In many dismantle situations, the contractor can actually provide the labor and services required to safely take the barn down and clean up the mess FOR FREE in exchange for the salvageable material, and in some cases (depending on the quality and quantity of material) the owner could even get paid. Thanks again for your great article, and for your consideration of my thoughts on the subject!! John Robinson (owner) REBORN CONTRACTING SERVICES 503.939.9463 John@RebornContracting.com ccb # 196424

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