Commentary: Days of Future Past

By: Gary Truitt

Twice a year, the State of Indiana recognizes farms around the state that have been in continuous operation or continuous family ownership for 100 years and longer. This is an important program that helps recognize and honor our state’s agricultural heritage. Yet, this award is based on the land. On that land stand many old barns, also testaments to our agricultural past and to state history. Like the land, these buildings also need preserving.

When pioneers migrated to Indiana, one of the first things they did was build barns. The barn was the center of the farming operation and was typically constructed from the raw materials located on the farm: wood, stone, and so forth. While today’s agricultural technology seams amazing, the skill used to construct these old barns with nothing but chisels and an axe is also amazing. These structures also tell the story of our state’s ethnic heritage. The styles and methods of construction varied greatly from one culture to another.

Unfortunately, thousands of these structures have been lost to the ravages of time and neglect. In recent years, many in agriculture have bemoaned the loss of this important piece of our heritage, but one man decided to do something about it. There are few people in the state who had more passion for the history and heritage of agriculture than Mauri Williamson. Founder and creator of the Pioneer Village at the State Fair, Williamson also was the driving force behind the establishment of the Indiana Barn Foundation. This non-profit organization is dedicated to educating people about the importance of old barns and to helping preserve these historic structures.

To help generate funding for this effort, the Mauri Williamson Legacy Endowment has been established. This is fitting way to honor the legacy of the late Mauri Williamson and to help preserve the barns of which he was so fond. This is an endowment I strongly recommend you consider. You can get more information at Mauri Williamson Legacy Endowment at

Many of these old barns are finding a new life  as wineries, antique shops, and wedding venues. There is something about the image and craftsmanship that attracts even those not involved in farming and who do not understand their significance. Unfortunately, much of modern agriculture  does not possess this ambiance. A metal shed or grain bin is not likely to  endure for the next 100 years. So, make an investment in the past to preserve it for the future.

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