Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

March 26, 2014

Kentucky losing many of its old barns

ASHLAND — Many of those of us who are old enough to remember traveling on two-lane highways  have fond memories of the role barns played in keeping us informed. By reading advertisements painted on roadside barns, we learned about Mail Pouch chewing tobacco and Rock City and Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Even today, there are dozens of barns throughout the state with attractive quilt patterns painted on them, and Elliott County even encourages visitors to drive through the county just to see the quilts painted on barns. In neighboring Ohio. there are still a few barns beautifully painted to advertize the state’s bicentennial in 2003. The bicentennial celebration ended 11 years ago, but the barns still stand promoting the Buckeye State.

We mention all this only to say that Craig Potts, director of the Kentucky Heritage Council, has sounded the alarm that barns in the state are being demolished at “an alarming rate.”

In 2007, Kentucky had more pre-1960 barns per square mile than any other state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture census in that year. However, so many barns have been torn down in Kentucky in the last seven years that Potts said the state may no longer have that distinction.

The demise of tobacco as the state’s number one cash crop is a major reason for a decline in the number of barns in the state. That’s because it is not easy to convert a tobacco barn into other uses, and landowners who no longer raise tobacco are choosing to tear down their tobacco barns instead of going to the expense of converting them to other uses.

Some of the old tobacco barns are being used for gatherings, such as one at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Mercer County, Potts said, who attended a concert in that old barn. The practice was common decades ago.

“In rural communities where a large space under one roof was not available all the time, they would use tobacco barns as gathering spaces,” Potts said.

Hampton “Hoppy” Henton, a longtime tobacco farmer in Woodford County, says the old barns have fallen into disrepair because so many farmers have moved away from growing the crop and don’t see the need to reinvest in them as they are.

He said he still has one tobacco barn that has been partially converted for horses. Henton says he still grows the crop, but he has seen other farmers convert barns into hay sheds or use them for livestock.

“We don’t have a long-term perspective,” he says of Kentucky agriculture. “We say, nobody’s going to smoke anymore. People are going to smoke e-cigarettes. We all have a pessimistic view of the future. We all think it’s our last crop, so we don’t re-capitalize,” Henton said.

What Henton calls pessimistic, we would call realistic. Tobacco will never again be the cash crop it once was in Kentucky. Farmers know that and are tearing down the barns they no longer have a use for.

While those of us who love old barns lament their demise, if a farmer wants to demolish an unused barn, there is little anyone can do to prevent him from doing so.  Of course, the Boyd County Community Center was once a horse barn, but few governments or individuals have the financial means for converting an old barn into a new use. Even most of the barns advertising Mail Pouch have disappeared and Rock City has found other ways to advertise its attraction besides barns near highways less traveled than they once were.

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • Positive trend

    For those adults who have a low opinion of American teenagers, Uncle Sam’s latest study of worrisome behavior among teens provides some good news: Teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less. Most forms of drug use, weapons use and risky sex also are declining — and have been since 1991, the year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first started surveying teens about  their behavior.

    July 24, 2014

  • Research's value

    In pushing for a higher education reform bill in the late 1990s, former Gov. Paul Patton set an ambitious goal of having the University of Kentucky become a Top 20 research university by 2020. UK has yet to accomplish that goal, but UK and the University of Louisville both have made great advances in research in recent years.

    July 24, 2014

  • Deadline is near

    People with Kentucky driver’s licenses may soon be required to show a passport or some other accepted form of federal identification to enter “restricted” or “semi-restricted” areas of federal facilities, including federal courthouses, military bases, federal prisons and a wide range of other federal offices.

    July 23, 2014

  • Issue is safety

    The Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control has recommended softball  “players at first base, third base and pitcher utilize the permissive requirement in the playing rules and wear face/head protection.”

    July 23, 2014

  • More difficult

    In a state like Kentucky with the number of adults who have not graduated from high school is much higher than the national average, undereducated adults have been encouraged to earn high-school equivalency degrees by studying for, taking and passing the General Educational Development (GED) test.

    May 22, 2014

  • Primary election sends messages

    The voters — or at least the minority who took the time to go to the polls Tuesday — have spoken, with Boyd County voters sending mixed messages in the county-wide races that gathered the most attention.

    May 21, 2014

  • Click it or Ticket

    "Click it or Ticket” is a phrase used so often in recent years most of us hardly give it a thought.

    May 21, 2014

  • Top trooper

    Thumbs up to Trooper First Class Shane Goodall of Flatwoods for being named 2013 Trooper of the Year for Kentucky.

    May 20, 2014

  • 05/18/2014 — This Week in the Tri-State

    Local news

    May 18, 2014

  • 0518greene.jpeg Greene-Lounsberry

    John and Eva Greene of Greenup are proud to announce the engagement of their daughter, Stacey Nicole Greene, to Jonathan Wesley Lounsberry.

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo