The Disappearing Barns of the Midwest

Barn Leelanau County, copyright Ellen Wilson

I’ve given myself a photo assignment – documumenting the disappearing barns of the Midwest.

At the turn of the century, barns could be found all over the place because there were a lot more small farms.  In 1900 close to 40% of the American labor force was made up of farmers.  Today, it is less than 2%.

Now we have huge agribusinesses that boast of more cost effective and environmentally friendly farms.  Farmers can carefully control profits by making sure animals have the right food to maximize their growth.  And no longer do cattle wade in local streams contaminating the water supply.

But while there are positive attributes to large scale farming technology there are many negative attributes as well.

First and foremost is the fact that the growth and distribution of food is a political and economic force most Americans do not understand.  Animal growth is carefully regulated by the use of hormones.  Antibiotics are also routinely given to combat disease and infection.  Do we want this stuff in our food?

The cost of food is increasing due to increased shipping costs because of the unstable situation in the Middle East.

And we were never told about genetically modified food stuffs that appeared on our supermarket shelves as other countries were.  We, as consumers, were not given a choice.

I think of these things as I travel around the country and see the landscape dotted with falling down barns, or barns that are lovingly attended to as keepsakes.  Like the barns in this post.

Barn, copyright Ellen Wilson

These are all things we have to grapple with now and in the future.

What else will disappear in our lifetime?

What is disappearing in your area?

Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson

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