Jan holds a B.A. in English from Albion College; an M.A. from Nazareth College, Kalamazoo; and has studied holistic health through Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo and program evaluation at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
My passion for heritage barns and farm life, goes back to having grown up on a dairy farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula The farm had been in Dad’s family since the 1880s and had Dad’s health held out it would have stayed in the family. The barn was built by my grandfather. Dad always said that the hardest part about leaving the farm was leaving the barn. After we sold the farm in 1969, the herd was sold and eventually, the house, barn and outbuildings that my parents had taken excellent care of, were badly neglected. A couple bought the parcel with the buildings and remodeled the house but destroyed the barn.
Dad passed away in 1995 without knowing the barn had been destroyed. It would have grieved him. When I return to the U.P. I rarely pass by the land any more. It is no longer home and without a barn, it is no longer a farm.
The Barns on Coralan Farm - 1968
Often when I speak to groups, someone wants to know what I hope will happen in the next few years to preserve America’s barns. The log barn in my masthead was destroyed about a year ago. It was a Michigan treasure, now gone forever. There are hundreds – thousands – of such tragic stories. We can’t and should not try to save every vestige of our history. But, there are barns that should definitely be saved. My hope is that there will be a national endowment for the preservation of America’s barns. From this endowment, funds can be given to help caring people in groups in every state undertake projects to identify and save “signature barns” of special importance to local and regional history; document barn and farm/ranch architecture and life stories; host barn-related events that draw people together in the spirit of community; to introduce children to the wonder of a barn; create barn tours and written guides and barn quilt trails; help those who want to save barns save them when they lack the resources to do it alone; and support feasibility studies and rehabilitation that gives new life to old barns. We all need hopes and dreams. This is mine.
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