Owsley County Country

An agrarian county, Owsley County has 246 farms totaling 31,767 acres. Much of this land is in forest lands.

Vegetables, tobacco, cabbage, pepper, strawberries, corn, hay and various fruit trees are harvested throughout the county.

New and emerging crops include organic vegetables, mushrooms, grapes, pumpkins, squash, napa cabbage and bok choy.

A scenic drive through Owsley County's countryside provides breathtaking vista views of family farms and historic barns. Proud guardian of the countryside, the barn stands solemnly as a lasting reminder of America's rural heritage.

The barn has begun to disappear from much of the American landscape. Obsolete for modern farming needs and too expensive to maintain as family heirlooms, old barns appear destined to be preserved only in photographs and memories.

Old farm buildings of the countryside contribute to the landscape, and help define the history of the location, i.e. how farming was carried out in the past, and how the area has been settled throughout the ages. They also can show the agricultural methods, building materials, and skills that were used. Most were built with materials reflecting the local geology of the area.

Barns are working buildings; they are the largest tool on a farm. Like any tool, their shape and size reflects the way in which they are used. Just as the tip of a screwdriver will tell what type of screw it is meant to be used with, a barn's shape, size and attributes reflect the job it was intended to do. As farming practices developed over time, the types of barns that farmers built also changed.

Although family farms continue to operate as suppliers for local population centers, the middle of the twentieth century heralded the decline of small farms. Changes in the way American's ate, increasing property values, and the growth of giant agribusinesses meant that family farms had a difficult time making a living.

As farms went out of business, many of their barns became unused. Since the buildings were no longer needed, they were no longer maintained. The result was demolition by neglect.

Another threat to the farms and barns also appeared in the second half of the 20th century - development. Since the farms could no longer generate enough income through their produce, a new way of getting money out of the land was sought. The result was the process, which continues today, of turning farmland into developments that have no place for a barn.

Today, a renewed awareness for the important place of barns in America's past and present is making progress in preserving this physical reminder of our agricultural heritage.

Get off the beaten path in Owsley County's countryside and view these magnificent structures of Appalachia.