You can go just about anywhere in the country and if you’re traveling through farmland, one thing will remain consistent—you’ll see a red barn. Red barns are nostalgic, and traditional, and feel like a piece of Americana.
But, red barns aren’t just red for no reason. Hundreds of years ago, it had a very practical purpose.
According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the history of red barns dates back hundreds of years. Back then, farmers weren’t thinking about which color would give their property the best aesthetic. They were more concerned with protecting the wood of their barns so they would withstand the test of time.
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A few centuries ago, things like paint and sealant weren’t widely available — especially on a farmer’s salary.
So, as farmers often do, they used what they had on hand or could easily procure to create a concoction that would protect their barns. They mixed linseed oil, lime, milk, and rust to coat the wood.
The rust provided a natural barrier against moss and fungi, and tinted the barns the fire engine red color we know and love today.
Today, we think of red barns as traditional and a way to connect with history and past generations. But, if a farmer pulls out a can of red paint today to tint their barn, they’re one step ahead of the original painters.
Of course, now, farmers can protect their barns with sealants that defend against harsh weather and mold. But, there’s something very pure, simple, and refreshing about seeing a red barn and knowing that while it could be any color, most farmers are carrying on a centuries-old tradition.