Friends of Ohio Barns is born

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COLUMBUS – Ohio has been a state known for its magnificent timber framed barns since the early 19th century, and for good reason. Any visitor to the state soon realizes traveling through Ohio provides you with an overview of how many different types of barns there are.

Barns are everywhere. A trip to Ohio’s Appalachian region will provide opportunities to see simple sustenance barns meant to house a team, a milk cow and maybe a goat as well as grand double crib log barns capable of keeping two giant haystacks dry all winter.

Travel south to the river towns and you will find long low slung tobacco barns with row after row of tall slender ventilators.

Take a trip north to the Western Reserve along Lake Erie and you will find English style “threshing barns” with pentagonal ridge beams, and if you’re lucky you will see one of the square silos common to that area.

Head west to the long since drained Black Swamp and you find Ohio’s double barns proudly showing off the fertility of the soil. Pay close attention and you will see one of the more rare triple barns.

Ohio’s grandest. But if you travel to central Ohio to the military land grant area and the rolling hills along the National Road you will be treated to arguably Ohio’s grandest barns.

The majestic and often highly decorated Pennsylvania Barn is truly a picture waiting to be taken.

Until recently however, not much attention was paid to the disappearing future for Ohio’s barns. Most people felt that not much could be done to stop the steady decline, deterioration and eventual destruction of so many of these wonderful reminders of days gone by.

Outlived usefulness. As farming changed, so did the usefulness and value of the old barn. Farmers found that new equipment didn’t fit in them, and bailed hay was too heavy to stack to the rafters without breaking the floor beams.

Sadly, the pride that once made them the centerpiece of farm life was disappearing and being replaced by pealing paint, loose siding and broken slates.

Maintaining the old barn became a problem instead of an important activity. A big problem. Sometimes the problem is solved by answering an ad that touts “CASH paid for your old barn!” More sadly, sometimes an arsonist solves it.

This recent reality has plagued the areas in and around Amish country found in Holmes and Wayne counties to the astonishment and dismay of those who have ever stood in one of those grand old Amish barns and wondered at its beauty.

But more often, the problem solves itself. As time and lack of maintenance take their toll, eventually the old barn crumbles back into the earth from whence it came.

Barn Again is born. In 1997, the future of Ohio’s barns took a turn for the better. The traveling Barn Again! exhibition was brought to Ohio by the Ohio State University County Extension Agency and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office.

This exhibit, created by the Smithsonian Institution, was created to highlight the program begun in 1987 by the National trust for Historic Preservation and Successful Farming magazine.

The exhibit was created to shed light on the growing problem of the slow, but steady, loss of the American barn, and to address possible solutions. Its introduction in Ohio met with a tremendous response, which professor Jim Papritan saw as a mandate.

An Ohio chapter of Barn Again! was formed and has since held nearly 20 successful workshops in counties across the state.

Paralleling this success was the realization that something more was needed. Something that would allow people to actively become involved in saving Ohio’s barns.

Barn conference. The first Ohio Barn Conference was held in Delaware County in February 2000. It was an idea that had been inspired by former Farm and Dairy columnist Chuck Whitney, who has been one of the “Barn People” since childhood, and was a direct result of his work with several county extension agents and Rudy Christian from the Timber Framers Guild.

The conference attracted more than 250 attendees confirming the reality that Ohio’s grass roots movement had begun.

A second event was held in Wayne County in 2001 with the same attendance and the first public meeting was held to form an official committee to create a new organization.

March event. Friends of Ohio Barns was born. It has received its official 501C3 recognition from the State of Ohio, and plans are well under way for OBC III scheduled for March 15-16 at historic Sauder Village near Archbold, Ohio.

Friends of Ohio Barns is an official member of the National Barn Alliance and has already formed a partnership with Barn Again! in Ohio, the Ohio State County Extension Agency and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office.

These partnerships will help nurture the environment needed to provide Ohio’s barn owners and enthusiasts with an opportunity to join in the movement to save our agricultural heritage.

Learn more. If you are interested in more information about Friends of Ohio Barns and the Ohio Barn Conference, visit its Web site at http://ohiobarns.osu.edu, write to Friends of Ohio Barns, P.O. Box 203, Burbank, OH 44214 or fax a request to 330-624-0501.

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