Saving Our Agricultural Heritage
Agriculture has driven Oregon’s economy and shaped its history since before the 1840s. With an estimated 11,400 barns built prior to 1960, Oregon needs to identify and protect those rural buildings, structures, and landscapes that define its agricultural heritage. The Restore Oregon board formed the Heritage Barn Taskforce in 2011 to lead its efforts in that field.
Barns are iconic, easily recognized structures that are common on Oregon farms and ranches. Barns are also utilitarian structures that are often outmoded on modern farms. Because they were built for very specific purposes, they are frequently difficult to repurpose in today’s agricultural operations.
“Inside a barn is a whole universe, with its own time zone and climate and ecosystem, a shadowy world of swirling dust illuminated in tiger stripes by light shining through the cracks between the boards.” ― Carolyn Jourdan, Heart in the Right Place
While the Heritage Barn Taskforce takes its name from these characteristic and charismatic structures, it is also interested in making sure that other important and distinctive rural buildings can continue to lead useful lives that reflect their past heritage. The Heritage Barn Taskforce also looks at helping to preserve silos and corncribs, corrals and milking sheds, and other elements of Oregon’s agricultural landscape.
With the rapid changes in farming and ranching, there is a special urgency for preservationists to partner with the agricultural community. The Heritage Barn Taskforce brings together resources to support Oregon ranchers, farmers, barn owners, barn enthusiasts, and their allies to find ways to preserve these structures, and to retain and enhance their usefulness in today’s agricultural environment.
The taskforce meets once a month in Portland and via teleconference. If you are interested in participating, please contact Restore Oregon. For more information, or to join the Heritage Barns Task Force, email or call Restore Oregon at 503 243-1923.
How to Help a Barn
Owners of older barns are encouraged to review the Restore Oregon publication “So You Own an Old Barn” for an orientation of best practices, programs, and regulations in Oregon.
Additionally, owners of barns with historic significance are encouraged to complete a heritage barn survey for their property. Information from the survey will be added to the Historic Sites Database so researchers and preservation professionals can learn from your barn in the future.
Sustaining Heritage Barns Workshop
The annual Heritage Barns Workshop is the premier barn event of the year, offering important information and hands-on experience for preserving historic agricultural buildings. Participants learn about the different types of barns found across Oregon, what strategies have been used to save historic barns, and what incentives are available to help. Participants got their hands dirty learning how to hew timbers, use early hand tools, and evaluate the condition of barn wood.
The 2016 workshop will be held at Champoeg State Park in September. Check back for more details.