By Pete Hanebutt, NDFB Director of Public Policy
Every old farmhouse has a story to tell. Each one is full of generational memories.
When I drive across the countryside I get to see a lot of farmhouses. Some are still inhabited by the same family after generations and even centuries. Some represent the first home for a new family. Some used to be farmhouses but are now the old houses in the middle of the block and there’s not a sign of agriculture except for what’s in the refrigerator.
It’s the stories the old farmhouse can tell that catch my imagination. When I see an old farmhouse, or church for that matter, I see the original design, then all the parts that have been added over the years. A lot of old farmhouses started as primitive one or two room structures. Rooms were added later to accommodate growing families or even modern conveniences.
Drive across North Dakota and see these living museums; they’re a testament to rugged pioneers and strong families. They can tell you hundreds of stories, just at a glance. The story of the well house which used to stand just off the back porch. Or the stories the summer kitchen could tell of threshing rings fed and family meals cooked. Then there’s the end of the summer kitchen, when it was converted into a garage, and finally torn down completely to make room for the attached garage.
My father was born in a house where the original log structure has been incorporated into a ten-room house. Outwardly, no one would know what’s hiding behind the walls.
The old farmhouse has seen it all. It heard the first cries of newborn babies and it absorbed the smells of a few hundred thousand meals over the last century. The farmhouse has enjoyed the warmth of managing the mortgage or growing the farm business and the joy of graduations and weddings. The farmhouse has also witnessed sorrows; the grief of generations passing and the simple grief of losing the calf that was nursed for several long nights on the back porch.
Yet even in grief, hope springs eternal in the farmhouse. The anguish and heartache of a grandfather’s passing opens the door for the second or third generation on the farm. The sorrow of not being able to nurse that calf back to health inspires the young FFA student to become a veterinarian.
As I pass the homes that dot our landscape, I’m inspired by the stories they each have to tell, and it warms my heart to think of the stories the old farmhouses have yet to create.