Jeff Steed has had to replace the roof of his barn two times since he acquired it. The upkeep on aging barns is expensive. The Indiana Barn Foundation is hoping to educate others on the importance of maintaining these barns.
Jeff Steed has had to replace the roof of his barn two times since he acquired it. The upkeep on aging barns is expensive. The Indiana Barn Foundation is hoping to educate others on the importance of maintaining these barns.
INDIANAPOLIS — Barn enthusiasts around the state recently gathered for the first meeting of the Indiana Barn Foundation.

Although attendees came from different locations, they gathered for the same reason: To save Indiana barns and raise awareness that they are disappearing.

Barns are collapsing around the state, with the high cost of rehabilitating the structures, as well as the fact that most are too small for farming equipment today.

The idea to start a nonprofit organization to help farmers finance the maintenance of their barns was decided when Carolyn Rahe, who has a small farm in Bourbon, read an article stating there are around 20,000 wood barns still standing today, compared to 30,000 a decade ago and a tenth as many as a century ago.

The ball started rolling when Rahe contacted Mauri Williamson, longtime Purdue University administrator and barn expert. She expressed interest in forming a restoration group for barns, much like the ones in other states.

About 50 people came to the first meeting, where the 15 board members were introduced and goals were set. The No. 1 mission is to save as many Indiana barns as possible.

Rahe would like the first year to be filled with raising awareness of the need, getting the word out about the organization and fundraising. She hopes the second year will include a grant application process to help those in need of assistance with maintaining the barns.

“We want to be known throughout the state,” she said.

Personal Connections

Judy O’Bannon, former first lady of Indiana, spoke on the importance of restoring Indiana barns. Looking at the past helps us figure out how we got here today, O’Bannon said.

“History gives us a sense of who we are,” she said. “We often save the wrong things to tell us who we are.”

Saving the barns is a way to find those answers, O’Bannon said. She spoke of the home on the O’Bannon family farm in southern Indiana, which is a log barn.

“I feel the presence of people who experienced the things I did when I’m in that barn … I feel connected to those people,” she said. “There are stories in your barns waiting to be told.”

Rahe also has a personal connection, like many in attendance. She can recall traveling around the country with her father, a veterinarian, who would take pictures of barns they passed.

That love for barns stayed with her, and in 2005, she and her husband bought a farm that included a barn built in the 1900s. The upkeep of that barn has not been an easy or inexpensive task.

The group hopes to not only raise the funds needed to maintain the barns, but to also communicate the importance of saving the barns to others outside the foundation.

The Indiana Barn Foundation will have a booth at the Indiana State Fair. People interested in helping can become a member, donate and help by telling members where the barns are located.

Future goals of the group include having an inventory of barns in Indiana, as well as providing financial education programs, workshops and education materials.

Want to know more? Visit www.indianabarns.org or https://www.facebook.com/IndianaBarns.