In attempts to preserve some Iowa history, farming and life in the "good ol' days," property owners across the state have restored old barns for several years which are then featured semi-annually in the Iowa Barn Foundation's Iowa Barn Tour. This year three barns in Buena Vista County will be featured on Sept. 20 and 21st from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Landowners say barns are disappearing quickly as many become in disrepair and are torn down.
The Youngberg barn was built by Pete Herlin in 1911. The barn is now owned by Lenore and Arlyn Youngberg of Albert City. The Youngberg couple moved to the farmplace in 1956 to raise their five children. During that time Arlyn says he taught school and farmed. "Not much time for yourself," he says. The barn originally was home to milk cows and hogs. Then for many years the couple raised and trained registered Percheron draft horses. If you visit the farm you'll meet Dixie, a Percheron and Flicka an Appaloosa-Percheron cross.
Youngberg says as people tour the barns he wants them to remember that they are more than just an old building. "There are so many more things a barn exemplifies than an old building," he says. The sights, the sounds, the smells of a barn. They are witness to new life of baby animals as well as the death of a favorite horse - a laboratory of rural America.
Youngberg says he feels the barns are a history lesson for any age whether you come from the country or city. He says he finds all barns unique because he said he hasn't seen two barns that are identical. "Every one is unique in its own right," he says. Another barn was originally located on the farm land, however, was closer to the road. Youngberg says he was told some of the boards used to build the new barn came from the old barn as well as some other businesses in Albert City and Marathon.
Landowners can receive matching grants provided by the Iowa Barn Foundation to help fix up the barns to feature in the tour so Youngberg felt it would be a chance to fix the barn up again to show people. He says he also felt being part of the tour would be a good way to meet new people he might not otherwise get to meet and says it's paid off, he's meant people from at least seven or eight states including California. The Youngberg barn is located at 4886 220th Ave., Albert City.
April and Kevin Dwyer of Linn Grove began fixing up some old buildings on their farmplace not intending to even be part of the barn tour. However, April says after they started painting the barn people began stopping by and marvelling at how nice it looked. While April didn't grow up on a farm she says she has had an interest in barns and abandoned farm places for quite a while and has spent some time photographing them. She says they didn't realize just how much work it would be to repaint the barn and clean the barn out. "It was a mess," she says.
However, she said not much was done to the inside to remodel it to make it look as original as possible. "It really was a labor of love." Memorabilia for the barn was collected from thrift sales including old photographs. The only useable items in the barn worth keeping was a scale and a milking stool, she says. The original section of the barn was supposedly built in 1890, she says.
The Dwyer's barn now known as the Moonhill Barn was first featured in 2007 on the barn tour. Growing up in the city April says they never noticed the sky as much. "The moon seems to be looking down at us (in the country," she says. Two years ago she says she visited The Youngberg and Mickelson barns which are also part of the tour. "I thought I can do this," she says. She applied to be a member of the tour group the same night. Many long hours went into researching the farmplace. April found names, where the families are buried, where they went to school but says she still can't find out much information about the barn and who built it but wishes she did.
"Our history is the barn, if you didn't grow up on a farm you relatives did. She says she is saddened when she sees a barn that becomes run down and is torn down. The Moonhill Barn is located on 774 480th street, Linn Grove.
Roger Mickelson has lived on his family farm for about 80 years. He says he grew up with the barn. "This is his farm, we hated to see it go down," says Ruth. They renovated the barn in 2001 and the barn tour first featured the barn in 2002. All the items featured in the barn either belonged to Roger's mother or were stored in the barn. "As we cleaned it out we kept finding stuff," she says. Mickelson says he's not sure who will keep up the barn when he passes away. He and his wife Ruth raised five children on the farm but none of them got into farming.
"A lot of people who come through (the barns) can remember and reminisce." he says. However, it's also a chance for people to learn more about the history of Iowa who may know nothing about farming. The barn is located on 5126 Highway 71, Storm Lake.