Honoring Heritage: Annual barn market celebrates family farms

An event that started in the South as a way to celebrate family farm heritages has gained in popularity in southern Indiana through the efforts of some Jackson County residents.

Georgiann Coons and Jenny Stuckwisch will host their fifth Hen and Chicks Barn Market on Sept. 29 and 30 at the Stuckwisch Farm near Seymour.

A barn market is a community social event conducted in and around old barns. It usually lasts two days and features music, food, vintage merchandise and arts and craft vendors, Stuckwisch said.

“A well done barn market will remind people of old-time rural culture, and for those who have never known farm life it will give them a taste. And, for everyone, it should just be a pleasant day in the country,” Stuckwisch said.

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Farm memories

Coons and Stuckwisch, friends since childhood, both were daughters of Hoosier dairy farmers. But as is the trend with many former farms across the United States, their family farms are no longer working farms.

“A family farm wasn’t just a place you lived and worked; a family farm was a way of life. American farm life had it’s own culture. But things have changed. Often, places you think are still farms are not working farms at all. There may be people living in the house but the barns are empty,” Coons said.

Stuckwisch recalled her father milking 200 to 300 cows a day when she was young.

“That is a lot of work, and when the time came he couldn’t do it anymore, no one else in the family could take it over, and our farm’s days as a working farm ended,” Stuckwisch said.

Stuckwisch’s husband, Brian, also was a child in a large family of Jackson County dairy farmers. After his great aunt Marie Buse died, he purchased her farm even though it was no longer a working farm.

“Brian always remembered going there as a child and he didn’t want to let go of it forever, so we bought the property,” Jenny Stuckwisch said.

The Stuckwisches live in the white farm house at the front of the property, but the large barn and other structures sit vacant around the empty barnyard behind the house.

Growing trend

Barn markets started in the South as a way to use the empty barns and remember simpler times for a few days, the Hen and Chicks Barn Market organizers said.

“One day, after Jenny and I had heard about barn markets from friends who had moved from Tennessee, we just decided to hold our own barn market at Jenny and Brian’s place. We traveled to a few Barn markets to see what they were like and then we decided how to do ours,” Coons said.

The original plan was to host just one barn market, in the fall of 2015, Coons said.

“We really just wanted our artistic friends to have a nice, fun way to show their work,” she added.

The Stuckwisch and Coons families worked together for about eight months to get the large barn and smaller buildings surrounding the barnyard ready for guests. They cleaned and decorated the buildings in a country chic style.

When the buildings were fit for a party, they advertised around neighboring communities that there would be a barn market that September. They signed up about 20 vendors to sell appropriate merchandise, food and beverages, and hired musicians. Both families set up tents for the vendors and tables and chairs for the guests.

About 500 people showed up for the first Hen and Chicks Barn Market.

“We had so many requests to have another one, we decided to do it again in 2016. Then, people wanted us to promise to do it every year and even more people said we should have a market at least twice a year. So, that is what we are doing. One market in the spring and another in the fall,” Coons said.

Despite two severe storms ripping through the area, more than 1,400 people visited the fourth Hen and Chicks Barn Market in April of this year.

“Some came to shop at vendor booths and others just came to walk around and listen to the music and share in the atmosphere,” Coons said.

“After the first bad storm hit and practically drowned us, I thought we should close down, but Jenny said no way and said that it wasn’t the first storm to hit this farm and it wouldn’t be the last. And it wasn’t the last,” Coons added.

“A short time after the first storm hit, we got hit again. But, all the vendors in the barn and cement buildings made room for the guests and the vendors in the tents and we all made it through. And, I couldn’t believe how many people continued to come through the bad weather.”

Coons and Jenny Stuckwisch said they hope the barn market in September draws 2,000 visitors. More than 50 vendors have made reservations, more musical entertainment has been arranged and bigger and sturdier tents obtained in case storms hit, Coons said.

“I am very proud of what our farm has become and I am very hopeful for it’s future,” Jenny Stuckwisch said.

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WHAT: The Fall Fling Hen and Chicks Barn Market. The event will include free music performances, more than 50 vendors selling vintage items, designer clothing, arts and crafts. Food and beverages, including beer and wine, will be available for purchase.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 29 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 30.

WHERE: 5602 E. County Road 100N, Seymour

WHO: Open to the public, all ages.

COST: $5 gate fee for adults, children under 12 are free. A weekend pass can be purchased for $7 for adults.

INFORMATION: 812-216-1449 or facebook.com/henandchicksbarnmarket