I was reminiscing the other day to my gathered grandchildren about the annual childhood vacation journeys my family used to make from wherever we were living at the time to my paternal grandparents’ home in central Kentucky. Dad let us take turns as navigator in the shotgun seat, getting us from point A to B in a day’s drive, using nothing but those “little blue roads” through the rural countryside he loved so much. Occasionally one of us kids would get us good and lost, then the next in line would have to find a way out. He was never in a big hurry, we often spent more days than necessary getting to Grandma’s house.
One of the things I recall most fondly were the painted advertising barns we’d see along the way. “See Rock City” barns no matter where we were or how far it was from there to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ubiquitous tobacco barns in Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky painted to advertise for Mail Pouch or Red Man or some other cigarette, chew or pipe tobacco. Some very unique painted barns advertising for local or national businesses. We used to keep a page of the trip log for listing those, along with each eagerly anticipated Burma Shave series of one-word jingles and the usual list of state license plates seen along the way.
Those old ad-barns are quickly falling into distantly remembered history, as tobacco bases become increasingly rare and as the barns themselves deteriorate. Some have been salvaged as ‘conversation piece’ paneling for fancy rural log McMansions, pulling in a pretty penny for those who dismantle rotting outbuildings in a newer generation. In an age of interstate highways lined by boring billboards, seeing a unique working barn with a real advertisement on it is becoming a rare occurrence.
Would it surprise you to find that barn painted advertising is making a comeback? It surprised me, but then again, I don’t go far from home very often, and then mostly via interstate. But barn painted advertising still has its uses, and can return money to a landowner equivalent (or better) than from simply renting space for a billboard to be erected. All it requires is that the farm/homestead have frontage on a well-traveled roadway, and a good sized barn that can be easily seen from that roadway. Thus ‘selling’ the side and/or roof of a barn or other large outbuilding to a company for advertising could possibly be a good source of ‘extra’ income for homesteaders to think about.
You can do this yourself, though it wouldn’t be as quick a turnover to income as going through a company that contracts ads for billboards and such, that might consider your barn. For local companies, check with advertising directors to pitch your location and visibility of your outbuilding(s). This can work for regional companies as well, but national companies generally go through those advertising firms. You could try both, take the deal that offers you the most for your offered advertising space. Lucky homesteaders may in this way earn extra income just for having outbuildings visible to the public, and in return get a showpiece of a barn that can someday be worth even more as salvage!
And don’t forget to consider that you can always advertise on your visible barn/outbuilding your own farm logo if you belong to a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] cooperative, offer Agri-tourism attractions and/or B&B accommodations, or deal directly with the public for U-pick or fresh harvest produce, eggs, honey and/or meat. In such ventures advertising pays, and being visible to the public can only help.
Barn Painting & Advertising
Merced Sun-Star article
Rock City: Barn History