AMES, Iowa -- Some Iowa State University (ISU) Extension staff members have joined the Iowa Barn Foundation in hopes of preserving a part of Iowa's rural heritage.
Jack Van Laar, ISU Extension education director for Decatur County, became the Decatur County representative for the foundation after reading about it in a magazine.
"I e-mailed the Iowa Barn Foundation when I read the story about the group and told them about my own barn," Van Laar said.
He was interested in restoring his pre-Civil War barn, located on the farm he grew up on. But Van Laar soon learned the restoration would cost $150,000 and take more than a year to finish. The cost was beyond his financial capabilities, and he recently sold his farm. Van Laar hopes that the new owners preserve the Pennsylvania style livestock barn.
"Barns are unique remnants of our heritage," Van Laar said. "They are another link to our rural history, and when they are gone we won't have anything but pictures to tell future generations about it."
Neil Harl, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and emeritus professor of economics, became involved in the foundation when it formed in 1997. He served as the vice president of the Iowa Barn Foundation from 1999 to 2001 and is currently a board member.
"I have a genuine concern about preserving aspects of rural American culture as it existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries," Harl said. "I grew up on a farm and have very strong ties to the agricultural sector."
He grew up in Appanoose County, where he worked in and had many experiences with barns as a child. Harl owns 1,000 acres of land in the county, including an 80-year-old barn. He hopes that if Iowans preserve and restore barns, youth will have the opportunity to learn about historic rural life.
Harl is looking forward to upcoming Iowa Barn Foundation events, including the Highway 2 Barn Tour and Picnic in southern Iowa. Historic barns will be open to the public on June 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and June 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with a break for the picnic, and from 2 to 5 p.m. The picnic will be held at Lesanville, Iowa, a restored village.
The Iowa Barn Foundation is a non-profit corporation working to educate people about rural heritage and the importance of barn preservation. It provides matching grants for property owners who restore their barns and Awards of Distinction for those who restore barns at their own expense. The foundation's latest venture, the Farm Conservancy Project, accepts farms from property owners. These farms will be saved in perpetuity according to the owner's wishes.
Harl encourages people interested in barn preservation to join the Iowa Barn Foundation. A $25 membership fee includes a subscription to the foundation's bi-annual publication, the "Iowa Barn Foundation Magazine." Members also enjoy the benefit of a 40 percent discount on paint purchased at Iowa Paint stores, located throughout Iowa. The foundation currently has 1,500 members. For more information on becoming an Iowa Barn Foundation member, visit their Web site at www.iowabarnfoundation.org.
Carol Ouverson, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-9640, firstname.lastname@example.org