Home > farm, image, Images > Barn vs Machine Shed

Barn vs Machine Shed

I needed an idea for a post today so I decided to do another farm topic.  Maybe I can at least help those of you who are in the Midwest understand better some of the buildings you see when you pass through the country.


The building in the foreground is most often called a machine shed.  It has displaced the barn as the prime utility building on most farms.  The building here is a fairly early example of the type of machine shed that started to become common in the late 1950’s.  These buildings are supported on the outer walls by poles that look like those that hold up phone and electric lines.  They are usually covered by some light metal.  The most common covering has some kind of color.  They are capable of covering a considerable area inexpensively.

Machine sheds displaced the barn as farms in the Midwest stopped raising livestock and began to use machinery for fieldwork rather than horses.  The barn was well-suited for a farm that was oriented toward cows and horses.  It was not so well suited to storing and maintaining farm machinery.  So that is why so many barns have been lost or in a state of decay.  Many farmers do not care to go to the expense of maintaining a building that no longer has any utility.

The machine shed seems to have a considerable advantage over the barn in maintenance costs.  One comparison that I can make is with a barn and machine shed that I know the history of for the last forty years.  During this time the barn has required two roofs and has been painted several times.  The siding on the barn has also required numerous repairs.  The machine shed during this time has required no maintenance.  So the machine shed wins that comparison by a large margin.  These pole buildings seem to be remarkably durable.

About the only advantage that the traditional barn has is that in my opinion they are much more pleasing to look at.  Even through  some effort has been made to improve the appearance of the machine shed they remain very plain buildings.  Still with the advantage that they have in being inexpensive and durable the pole building machine shed is likely to remain the dominant farm building for a long time.

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