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.
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