Public Drinking Fountain, City Center, Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A DISAPPEARING ARTIFACT -- THE FARM SILO

Silos that stand alone upon a piece of old agricultural land announce to folks traveling by that a farm once stood on this ground. They are flagships of a missing farmstead. The silo above stands by itself on the old Coy farm near Kirksville in Madison County, Kentucky.

This was once the place of several outbuildings and a farm house -- now gone.

I talked to a local man named Cud about the above silo. He told me that the land owner had considered knocking it down but it was too messy of a job. Therefore, it was allowed to become one of the silos in the region that are now the only clues that an active farmstead once occupied a particular piece of land.

The oldest silos that I remember from living in the Midwest were shaped in a cylindrical form, the exterior were square pieces of beautiful brown shiny tiles about two feet by two feet -- all placed from top to bottom around the silo. Each of the produced tiles usually had an impressed company name. I also remember metal types and cement silos. All were markers for folks trying to navigate their way through the countryside.

For those not familiar with silos, they are used to store forage for animals on the farm and usually were essential in cold regions. It allowed them to provide feed when there was none to graze due to snow cover. Dairy cows are dependent on forage to keep their milk flowing.

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of silos that have been knocked down by their land owners and especially developers -- in the Midwest, Upland South, and beyond. But to give some developers credit, a few have saved their beauty by incorporating them into their developments. I even know one woman that built an antique shop on a piece of land and left the silo standing as a logo marker for her shop.

But in reality, the stand alone silo portrays a broken connection to a once thriving farm culture.

9 comments:

  1. I am enjoying reading your blog, as I am also fascinated by history, and the traces that have somehow managed to survive. They are treasures and deserve preservation. I don't recall seeing small silos, like the one you have posted, on farms in Australia. Now I will have to look harder to see if they are there, after all.

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  2. Oh, yes! Again we come to that fork in the road between "progress" and "failed policies" and wasted resources....It seems our society is bent on barrelling through, discarding perfectly good and usable facilities and resources in favor of the fast, and new...(do I sound like an "oldster?" We, too, have many of these silos dotting the landscape. For awhile, there was a company called Harvestore that came to farms back in the late '70's and for an enormously expensive contract, would build these big blue silos of varying heights. They were almost like a franchise, where the farmer bought into the process, not just the structure. Unfortunately, many farmers ultimate found that they had created an indebtedness that could never be met, they could not "pay off" the cost of construction and they went bankrupt.

    We have an older silo in our little town which is the (as you say) marker for a business: Silo Ice Company. The short little silo is actually downtown, standing like a sentinel, frozen in time. There are so many interesting histories connected with silos, many of them tragic symbols of abandonment now and even despair. Thank you for reviving their memory, Barbara! Such a thoughtful and contemplative view of life as it once was...

    Thank you,
    Elora

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  3. LiD -- So you live in Australia! I am always interested in other cultures. Perhaps you don't have silos in your country? My work and education history was in part involved in preservation -- not so much as untouchables but as roles it can play in our society. I checked out your blog and loved it! -- barbara

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  4. Elora --what a broad spectrum you bring to looking at silos, intriguing! Your story of the Harvestore silos is sad. I remember seeing the large grouping of slick blue silos in the Midwest. What I didn't realize was the indebtedness those farms were racking up. And, that they had to follow certain processes. I think Mansanto learned something from Harvestone Your thoughts are always fresh and astute - they are not "old!" When I read your posts I always learn something be it an issue, about farm life, or enjoyment from a beautiful photo. -- barbara

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  5. Thanks, Barbara! We do have silos. I have seen very large silos used for storing grain for transport, but I don't recall seeing little silos on farms for stock fodder. Perhaps the clue is in your statement 'for cold regions'. I will have to investigate further.

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  6. I've seen them, yes. When I was growing up in rural Mn and because of being from there, I knew exactly what they were intended for like ever since forever.

    What I didn't know is that they're disappearing--maybe because I haven't lived in a farming community during any time of my adulthood or maybe because I stopped looking for stuff like that on road trips. I learn something new every time I visit your blog. :-)

    You know what I have noticed on road trips once in awhile? Abandoned drive-in movie sites made obvious by the big white screen. Once I saw one with no town nearby, just out of nowhere--it was kinda spooky.

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  7. Eccentricity -- If you want to view a demolition of a farm silo go to youtube -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nksEVPQ6cvs. It is quite a major job to tear one down. Drive-in shows -- I have not seen one in ages. Will keep my eyes open for one. I know in CA they use the old drive-in theatre's parking area for flea markets. Thank you for the nice comments -- barbara

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  8. Found your blog via LiD's blog and am enjoying reading it :)
    I don't remember seeing small silos on farms in Australia but the larger ones were common at railway depots, and the like.

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  9. Jayne, Thanks for comments on the silos of your area. Within artifacts, or material culture as some call it, one can find stories of the past or the present. To me they trace our steps through the maze of our heritage. So very nice to have you as a reader of my blog. -- barbara

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