by Debra and Dave Vanderlaan
An old weathered barn graces this autumn pasture on a crisp fall morning in the Appalachian mountains......… Right smack on the borders of where the tri-states come together, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia...
From the days when Thomas Jefferson envisioned the new republic as a nation dependent on citizen farmers for its stability and its freedom, the family farm has been a vital image in the American consciousness. As the main structures of farms, barns evoke a sense of tradition and security, of closeness to the land and community with the people who built them.
Even today the rural barn raising presents a forceful image of community spirit. Just as many farmers built their barns before they built their houses, so too many farm families look to their old barns as links with their past. Old barns, furthermore, are often community landmarks and make the past present. Such buildings embody ethnic traditions and local customs; they reflect changing farming practices and advances in building technology. In the imagination they represent a whole way of life.
Unfortunately, historic barns are threatened by many factors. On farmland near cities, barns are often seen only in decay, as land is removed from active agricultural use. In some regions, barns are dismantled for lumber, their beams sold for reuse in living rooms. Barn raisings have given way to barn razings. Further threats to historic barns and other farm structures are posed by changes in farm technology, involving much larger machines and production facilities, and changes in the overall farm economy, including increasing farm size and declining rural populations.
August 15th, 2011
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