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EMMET: Designed to be seen and useful

Barn served many uses in 75 years

November 18, 2011
By KAREN SCHWALLER/Farm News staff writer


Farm News staff writer

RINGSTED - There was no mistaking it. Jens P. Jensen and his wife, Marie, needed a barn on their farm. They hadn't had one since they inherited the farm following the death of his parents in 1914 and 1915. By 1936, they decided it was time.

Article Photos

Leroy and Miriam Jensen stand in front of the barn on their century farm. The barn is made of clay block and was built in 1936, near the road, so it could be easily seen by others.

But he didn't want a barn that was too small for his needs, nor one that would go unnoticed by those who passed. So he built his 41-foot-tall clay block barn close to the road, making it as much of an area landmark over the years, as a place to house his livestock.

Situated east of Ringsted just north of Iowa Highway 15, the barn was used primarily for milking cows and raising a few beef cattle, along with keeping some horses. There were stanchions along the west wall and calf pens along the east, on the south end of the barn.

"After my dad (Stanley Jensen) had the barn, he quit milking cows over time and converted it to a farrowing barn," said current owner Leroy Jensen, grandson of Jens P. Jensen. "He cemented the gutter in and put farrowing stalls in."

The stalls were converted to raised decks for farrowing. There are three pens on the east side that were used for sows, their pigs and weaned pigs.

The barn has a couple unique features, Jensen said, including a haymow door that slides down on an exterior track, and a litter carrier for removing manure.

The litter carrier was on a track and carried manure in a large metal carrier to the outside, where it could be dumped behind the barn.

Some cattle and equine equipment inside the barn speaks of the day in which the barn was originally built and used.

There are horse blinders hanging on the wall inside the old granary, along with surcingle straps, used to hold a Surge milk bucket under the cow during milking, and other antique leather livestock-handling pieces.

The barn's clay blocks variegated colors - purple, red, green and butterscotch - lend an interesting appearance. Each block measures 5.5 inches high. There are 75 rows of block that make up the barn's height.

"This is the original brick," Jensen said. "Dad had it tuckpointed once, and it has been repaired here and there a little bit."

He said the roof was reshingled during his father's time on the farm, going from wood to asphalt shingles. Half of the roof was done one year, and half of it in another year.

Jensen was born on the farm in 1943. He housed his 4-H calves in that barn.

He started farming in 1978 while his parents still lived there. He taught vocational agriculture at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School and at Harlan.

More recently, he retired from his position as Wright County Extension director. He and his wife, Miriam, live in Clarion.

The Jensens are the fourth-generation owners of the farm. It came to them from Jorgen and Caroline Jensen, who purchased it in 1889, having come to the United States from Denmark. The farm was cited as an Iowa Century Farm in 1991.

The barn is used only for storage now.

Contact Karen Schwaller by e-mail at



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