Banking on the beauty of barns

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Winding through the hills of Harrison County earlier this month, I turned onto a road and immediately eased up on the gas pedal as a colorful painted quilt block on a barnside caught my eye.
This must be one of the Harrison County barn quilts Janelle was telling me about, I thought.
Reporter Janelle Skrinjar is working on a story for our Sept. 14 issue about the new barn quilt paintings popping up in Harrison County. Don’t miss it on the cover of our Antique Collector section that week.
You might remember reading in Farm and Dairy several years ago about the first barn quilts, emblazoned on barns in Adams County in southern Ohio.
The idea has become as popular as the state’s bicentennial barn paintings. Tour groups plan trips to see the painted squares, and several counties (and states) have joined suit to marry the craft of quilting with the heritage of our rural barns.
Works of art. There’s just something beautiful about barns, isn’t there? We may not see the beauty when it’s a place of work and sweat and midnight cow checks, but if you walk down the road, or across the field, or up the hill, turn around and look at your barn, you might just see the beauty that artists and photographers have long captured.
But a barn with no use quickly becomes a shell, a hollow shelter doomed to fall into ruin. Without earning its keep, a barn becomes a liability, and no one can subsidize the maintenance of a huge structure like an empty barn without an bottomless checkbook.
We see rundown, discarded barns everywhere, littering the countryside where they once held court. It’s a lamentable fact of life.
Rebirth. I think it was the folks at Successful Farming who coined the phrase “Barn Again” back in the mid-1980s. It aptly summarizes a program celebrating the rebirth of restored barns, both in structure and popularity.
Today, the program by the same name is cosponsored by Successful Farming and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Its goal is simply to provide information to barn owners, shining a light on ways to fix them up and put them back to use.
In our July 27 issue, you read about two such rejuvenated barns, one 1835 structure still in use on a cattle farm near Mount Vernon, and the second barn, c. 1920, renovated to house a furniture business near Mansfield. Both were honored as Barns of the Year by the Friends of Ohio Barns (http://www.ohiobarns.osu.edu).
There’s a wealth of information on getting started, finding help and restoring barns. Check with the Friends of Ohio Barns group, as well as allied groups and individuals, and the national trust Web site. But there’s not a lot of money out there to help you. Typically, you’re on your own.
The barns of Ohio and surrounding states are a link to the agrarian heritage that built this nation. Does anyone value that link enough to ensure this architecture survives?
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

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