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young farmers save barns!

Posted: September 8 2014

These old barns are good for more than reclaimed wood and weddings
By Lori Rotenberk, 3 Sep 2014 for Grist


Jeff Marshall rolls along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, counting barns on the horizon — 50 so far today, many of them disintegrating. Marshall heads the National Barn Alliance, a nonprofit that works with advocacy groups across the country. He’s speaking on the phone about how many barns have been lost in recent years, as farmers can no longer afford to maintain them, and federal and local funds for restoration dwindle.

According to the American Farmland Trust, we’ve lost 72 million acres of farmland since 1982, with the trend expected to hasten as farmers retire and die. How many barns there once were and how many remain isn’t really known.

But Marshall says a salvation of sorts is taking place. From Texas to Maine, smaller, sustainable farms are finding new uses for their noble barns — and we’re not talking about the weddings that have made both farmers and their neighbors crazy in recent years. These are agricultural uses. A former dairy barn becomes a cheese-making operation, a shelter for draft horses, or a winery. A small whelping barn becomes a place to grow mushrooms, micro greens, and spinach.

“Right now I’m looking out the window, just east of Harrisburg, and guess what I’m passing?” Marshall exclaims. “A barn that is Santa’s Workshop!” The resignation is evident in his voice: While the North Pole elf theme is far removed from farming, at least a barn is saved.

The barn revival seems to be taking root especially with a younger generation.

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