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Barn Project leads to call to action to save farming heritage before it’s too late

July 5, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek

The official unveiling of the Adj–Tos Barn Project, featuring photographs of farm structures throughout the region, took place at the Adjala–Tosorontio Municipal Office on Wednesday, June 26.

In two groups, members of the public (by reservation) were given a tour of the new display, featuring photographs by Tina Machado, historical write-ups by Ralph Braden, in dedication to Mark Nelson, as sponsored by Concerned Citizens of Adjala–Tosorontio (CCAT).

“In the past, Adjala–Tosorontio residents were mostly farmers operating family enterprises. Many barns, of course, still exist; however, times are changing. Agri-farming, industry and large unfarmed estates are eroding these ‘family farms’ in our community. Farmers are selling to developers and altering the landscapes. Old barns are disappearing and many are not being utilized as in the past…they are becoming endangered. I feel that it is essential to document these buildings and their history while we still have the opportunity. That quite a number of barns are still standing is testament to the materials and craftsmanship once used,” said Machado.

“They are structures that command our attention, whether in awe or in sadness. They are the pillars that our forefathers stood behind, engaged with, and that helped grow their wealth. They are forever practical, functional and utilitarian, although they can be a thing of beauty too. Picture rolling hills, wildflowers blowing in the breeze, or a snow drenched landscape, drop in a barn and you certainly have a photographic moment,” added Machado. “Many barns have disappeared, toppled over from a strong wind, been torn down, and just abandoned. My hope is that some wood was recycled into furniture, flooring, and walls for a new generation to enjoy. Many of those boards having been planed or cut in early sawmills that no longer exist. This at the very least allows their story to continue in someway, although in silence. Let’s give the barns still standing a presence, a voice, and a story for generations to come.”

Sadly though, notes Machado, many local historians and elders are leaving us. 

“They are the ones who have the important oral histories that once gone, will be lost forever. I would like to recognize the involvement of Mr. Mark Nelson, a well-known elder in Adjala, who co-created this proposal four years ago, although he has since passed on.”

The main goal of the Adj–Tos Barn Project was to photograph as many barns as possible in the township during the four seasons of 2018/19. 

“The project will also greatly benefit from the assistance of Mr. Ralph Braden a noted historian and writer,” said Machado.

Of all the modern photographs taken by Machado, a committee has chosen a select few for framed for display. 

“The remaining photographs will be arranged in a poster layout, and to enrich this project further, Adj–Tos residents are encouraged to participate by submitting a copy of their old barn photo with its history,” said Machado. “These locally submitted historical photographs will be included in the poster collage or portfolio for display too. These will be donated to the township for the community to enjoy at the municipal office in the summer of 2019.”

“The benefits of the project are numerous, and it is our intention to create an attractive historical exhibit for the township, as well as involving the community and elders in the creation of this noteworthy venture,” adds Machado. “Whether you help through monetary donations, volunteering your time, or spreading our goals through word-of-mouth, thank you. We couldn’t accomplish our goals without the help of people like you.”

“To those who donated spaces to work, and to those folks who donated money you all know who you are, thank you. To the barn owners who responded to my letters, or who contacted me to come see their pieces of history, thank you. You took the time to tell to me all about your barns, and there would be no project without you. To Mr. Ralph Braden for his knowledge of farm life, for the many write-ups he did, and for putting up with me…. thank you, Ralph. And to CCAT for encouraging and supporting the community project whole heartedly, with both feet in, you guys are awesome. And to my husband Jorge for driving me around at odd hours and for attaching all the hardware to hang the frames, thank you, love,” said Machado in her address to the audience. “Our community has always been about agriculture, and I do love seeing the tractors on the road, as it reminds me to slow down and enjoy the view. I think the most fascinating thing is the histories of the early settlers. You applied for a location ticket, and to earn that settlement you had to clear and fence 5 acres of every 100 you were granted. You had to build a dwelling house 16 x 20 feet and clear one half of the road in front of your lot, all within two years.

“In 1871 when Queen Victoria was on the throne, when John A. Macdonald was our Prime Minister, and when more than 78 per cent of Canada’s population lived in rural areas, I would bet most of those families had barns.

Now I have a number for you 10,128 – the number of farms we’ve lost in Ontario from 2001 to 2016 (in a 15 year time frame). The only positive spin I can put on this is, as the number of farms are shrinking some of the average farm sizes are increasing.

More and more rural towns are beginning to notice their barns, their pieces of history are disappearing, and I hope they take up the task of documenting these symbols of community, as that’s what they are. Communities came together to raise those barns.

As with many things in life you cannot truly know where you are going unless you understand where you began.

And finally I’d also like to thank our Council who voted to allow the project to be displayed in the public room. Thanks to all of you.”

For more information visit www.thebarnproject.com

Old photographs, barn stories and permissions to photograph barns in Adj–Tos can be submitted to tina.machadoink@gmail.com


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