Photographer Doug Ohman, who spoke and gave a slide show of his photos of barns at the Preston Public Library, keeps the crowd laughing as he offers his books for sale. From left are Debra Richardson, Ken Stager and Kay Spangler. (Republican-Leader photo by Lisa Brainard)
Photographer Doug Ohman, who spoke and gave a slide show of his photos of barns at the Preston Public Library, keeps the crowd laughing as he offers his books for sale. From left are Debra Richardson, Ken Stager and Kay Spangler. (Republican-Leader photo by Lisa Brainard)
"I have the best job," speaker Doug Ohman told his audience at the Preston Public Library during a slide presentation March 20.

He's a photographer who put together a series of books for the Minnesota Historical Society with topics of barns, churches, courthouses, schoolhouses, cabins and libraries. "The Art of the Farm" was his talk at Preston, which featured barns.

"Barns tell an agricultural story of our history," he stated. "When I see a barn, I think of people... Farmers don't give up; they get back at it!"

Many people in the audience raised their hands when he asked if they grew up on farms. Ohman stressed they should tell the stories of their farm life - and time playing and working in barns - to their children. He bet that one day his kids, who would roll their eyes when he spoke of working on a hay farm as a kid that's now a suburban golf course, would tell their kids his same stories.

The program showed slides of barns from the earliest days in Minnesota and continued to more recent barns. They started with threshing barns. Ohman noted that back in the day Fillmore County raised the most wheat in Minnesota. But wheat became diseased and by 1900 only 25 percent of the tillable land in the state was planted in wheat. Wheat also was better suited to the climate farther west.

Oats, corn and hay then took over as the state's main crops, along with a move to dairy cows. A farmer then could make a living with as few as a dozen cows. Ohman speculated that today a farmer would need 500 to make a livable wage.

With hay and dairy came the haymow and a dairy setup on a lower level. Windows were put in to provide light. Farmers were then in the barn twice a day milking. Loose hay progressed to baled hay.

"From 1900 to 1925 was the Golden Age of agriculture. It was a great time to farm. Most round barns were built before 1920. They were a fad," said Ohman. He noted they were efficient with feeding done in the middle, but they were very dark and didn't vent well.

Also, "they (round barns) were an experiment." But he said farmers were in the Depression before the stock market crash of 1929. "There was no experimenting then."

In the 1930s big gothic-style barns were being built because, Ohman stated, timbers could be laminated.

Silos were then added and the 1960s Harvestore came into being. It appeared the flag was added to a Harvestore when it was completely paid for.

Ohman said many barns are now falling down and will become a lost piece of history. His last slide showed what he said "was a barn... but wasn't." He showed the wrinkled hands of a 102-year-old-farmer.

He again encouraged telling the tales of barns and farms.