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Saving Historic Barns

American farmers are urged to repair what they have and not tear it down. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the Special English Agriculture Report.

A big red barn is probably one of the first things most Americans would think of if you asked them to imagine a farm. And not a modern metal barn, but a building made of wood like the ones in the old days.

A barn is where farmers keep animals and equipment. Over time, as fewer and fewer people worked the land, more and more barns were torn down to make way for developers. Others that remained might have fallen into poor condition.

Or perhaps they just no longer satisfy the needs of a modern farmer. Keeping an old barn in good condition might not be seen as worth the cost if it does not serve much purpose. But Americans with historic barns are being urged to save them.

The magazine Successful Farming and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are working together on a program called Barn Again! The National Trust is a nonprofit organization that works to protect places of historic importance in America.

The Barn Again! program advises hundreds of barn owners every year. Awards are given for the projects that best succeed at restoring a barn for continued farm use. Winning buildings are used to demonstrate methods of preservation.

The organization suggests how problems with things like stone and concrete block foundations can be fixed. With many old barns, the foundation they are built on is falling apart. Barn Again! also offers advice for other repairs, like how to replace siding and how to use a power washer to remove loose paint. And farmers are given suggestions about how to estimate costs.

Leo Fitzpatrick of Beaverton, Michigan, won the two thousand four Barn Again! Award. He made one improvement at a time. The work took more than nine years. He did it himself, even though for a while he held another job in addition to farming. He says it cost him fourteen thousand dollars, much less than a new barn of similar size.

The improvements included strengthening the barn. There are no structural supports inside the building; instead, its sides hold it up. Today the barn holds fourteen thousand bales of hay.

Leo Fitzpatrick says the barn is a lot stronger than when it was new. His grandfather built it in nineteen fourteen. And Mister Fitzpatrick says his farm would not be the same without it.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. To learn more about the Barn Again! program, go to I'm Steve Ember.