Old Barns: Why We Can’t Blame Farmers For Tearing Them Down

Jun 25, 2019 | About DreamDirt, Land Auctions

Jason Smith

Jason Smith

Auctioneer, Land Broker, Appraiser

Jason is a farm real esate processional in Iowa licensed as a broker and auctioneer.  The Iowa Farmland Prices Report is an aggregation of farmland sales across the entire state of Iowa.  DreamDirt has offices in Mason City, Des Moines, Onawa and Storm Lake.

Email: jason@dreamdirt.com | Phone: (515) 537-6633

Tearing Down An Old Barn

Barns Hold Sentimental Value – But Is That Enough?

As I drive down the countryside looking out the window, I love to admire the Midwest’s beautiful landscape. I imagine what the now old and rundown farms used to look like 50 years ago – how the farmyards may have looked when they had so much life and excitement. I imagine all of the stories and life lessons that both man and beast learned in those barns. Seeing these old barns takes my mind back to a different time period. I love to reminisce of the times when these old barns must have been in their prime and glory. Old barns can do that to a person – they stir up a lot of emotions and sentiments about the good ol’ days.
However, in the present, it is hard to ignore the shape of these barns today. The old buildings look like they could collapse any moment or are in such poor shape they could pose a liability issue. Some of the barns are simply too outdated for the modern farmer to use.

As farms change hands over the decades, each new owner decides how to use and treat the barns and buildings. Some owners take excellent care of their buildings and others, not as much. As the buildings age, each new owner will make the decision if they should tear the old buildings down to create a clean slate, or if they will try to renovate and update it.

I understand the sentimental portion that goes along with old barns. How can the farmers tear down such a beautiful piece of rural history? Do they not understand the amount of sentimental value in the barn versus financial value? I do see both sides of this story. The farmers, who are people also, see both sides of this story. They do not tear their old barns down because they are wanting to be evil or think that the historic building isn’t pretty to look at. They tear the old buildings down because the buildings have become a financial and safety liability that could harm humans, machinery, and livestock.

 

The Issues With Old Barns

Barns built 50 or more years ago are not functional with today’s farming practices. Think of the tractors and machinery that used to be housed in these barns so many years ago – the machinery was a lot smaller. Farming has become so efficient that using small machinery, although beneficial in some situations, is not as productive in today’s times. Trying to fit these very large new pieces of equipment into a smaller, dilapidated barn would be like trying to squeeze a sheep into a doggy door. Today’s machinery is simply too big for an outdated barn.

If the barn were to collapse on the machinery inside, not only could one be hurt trying to get the machinery out, but the farmer may need to buy equipment to replace the machinery destroyed in the barn. In addition, creating an atmosphere that is safe for livestock to grow and thrive in is a crucial part of being a successful livestock farmer. If a barn is unsafe to walk in, next to, or shelter livestock in then it might be time to tear down the old building.

In addition to a building collapsing, perhaps just as devastating is an electrical fire or a weather-related disaster to the structure. First, the electrical outlets in the building are most likely outdated and unsafe. Think of when the barns were built – fire codes were totally different than today’s electrical regulations. Another unpredictable disaster is stormy weather. Weather all around the United States is completely unpredictable nowadays. If the structure does not withstand the elements, the property owner will have an even bigger problem than before.

Barns are also taxable structures on properties. Although tax rates differ from state to state and county to county, the land owner will still need to pay taxes on each and every building on their property. The owner will have to pay the same rate for a building that is brand new versus buildings that are older. When the barns on the farm are no longer functional to the land owners, then owner is losing money from the unsound structure. A fix to this situation is tearing down the building.

 

Tearing Down An Old Barn Doesn’t Have To Be A Bad Thing

I know this is a hard topic because all barns have sentimental emotions connected to it, especially if the farm has been in the family for many decades. If one was to completely demolish an old building, based on a nationwide average’s study, it would cost the land owner about $8,000 (figures gathered by Hometown.) But instead of demolishing it, what about tearing it down and using the barn’s wood as home renovation projects? The DIY or sentimental re purposing projects are extremely popular today and can be a unique, safe and rewarding way to preserve parts of the barn’s history.

One can create some revenue from allowing people to come and buy the old barn’s wood or create projects to sell to others. In addition to repurposing the barn’s wood, the owner can also generate some income after the barn is demolished by turning the lot into cropland or a garden.

So, what does this all mean for the folks driving on the highway admiring the farmyards and thinking of the history left behind in the old buildings?

Farmers are not evil people for tearing down old barns. They are thinking of the safety of their families, their livestock, and machinery when they tear down the unreliable structures. They are increasing the value of their farm, preserving the history and creating an environment for new memories to happen.

 

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