After recently changing the cover photo on my Facebook page, a follower commented and asked why barns are always red.
Quite frankly, that was a pretty good question and not one I had ever considered. We don’t actually have any red barns on our farm and the barn pictured was a neighbor’s barn. (Yes, I used my farm photo etiquette and asked permission first!) We have several barns ranging from green to tan to a very light blue, but no red. Nonetheless, red barns are obviously a tradition.
Naturally, I had to do a little digging and find out the answer. According to the Farmer’s Almanac:
Many years ago, choices for paints, sealers and other building materials did not exist. Farmers had to be resourceful in finding or making a paint that would protect and seal the wood on their barns. Hundreds of years ago, many farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant. To this oil, they would add a variety of things, most often milk and lime, but also ferrous oxide, or rust. Rust was plentiful on farms and because it killed fungi and mosses that might grow on barns, was very effective as a sealant. It turned the mixture red in color.
So there you have it! The tradition continues today because red barns on farms are a nice nod to the past.