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The Joys And Challenges Of Owning Wisconsin Barns

Experts estimate around 1.5 million barns exist on America’s farms. And the state of Wisconsin sits in the top five states for barn ownership (along with Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee). Growing numbers of Wisconsinites use these romantic, patriotic structures in traditional, and even innovative, enterprising ways.

For instance, New Berlin artist, Bonnie Loduha, owner of Hawthorne Hill Farm, hosts seasonal art festivals in her barn. She calls the barn her “happy place,” especially when she hears the rain outside. Others, like Tom Hamilton and Juan Palomino have repurposed their barn to become The Farm at Dover — a thriving wedding and event venue. For these photo stylists, everything about their traditional red, wood barn "is beautiful." But many owners still struggle maintaining them.

In this mini documentary, we explore the joy — and challenges — in running and operating a barn. And we hear from regional experts on what we (as barn-loving Wisconsinites) can do to restore and protect this vital part of our history, before it’s too late:

Special thanks to the Wisconsin Barn Preservation Program and Chuck Law for his expertise and guidance. 

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Originally from New Zealand, Debbi brings the perspective of a newcomer to Wisconsin in her stories. She now lives in Muskego, Wis., with her husband and two sons.