The historic Iowa barn is a rapidly diminishing resource. It is estimated that there were over 200,000 barns built in Iowa and that we have somewhere around 60,000 left. It is also estimated that Iowa is losing around 1,000 barns per year and that number is accelerating. It is important that Iowans save the historic barn because of the sense of place it provides all of us as the “Prairie Cathedral”. Before we can talk about saving Iowa’s barns and farmsteads, however, we have to know how many we have left. We really don’t know how many surviving barns Iowa has. We need to count them to get an accurate picture of their numbers, descriptions, and condition. With this information we can then engage the public and elected officials to find an answer to how, together, we can save these great structures.

Barn in Story COunty, Iowa

Barn in Story County, Iowa

Governor Tom Vilsak declared 2005 as “The Year of The Barn and the Family Farm.That year, we initiated a farm survey project for Iowa. The county-level survey, using the National Farm Survey forms, is a simple photographic/reconnaissance survey that local volunteers can complete with local funds. The survey form and instructions are found below.

The single most important goal that can be achieved in the next couple of years is to photograph and count the surviving Iowa barns.

National Farm Survey

The National Farm Survey form and survey instructions are available here as PDF downloads:

We gratefully acknowledge those who have preceded us in this survey area and provided the foundation documents that we have used to create this new National Historic Farmstead/Barn Survey. Providing foundation documents for this survey were: Steve Stier, Michigan Barn Preservation Network, Michigan State University and Ashland County, Ohio.

Barn and Farm Resources

Iowa Barn Foundation:

National Barn Alliance:

National Trust for Historic Preservation Rural Heritage Initiative:

Barn Again!: