Barn of the Year

See below for 2024 Winners!

The Barn of the Year Program annually honors barns that support our ongoing mission to preserve Michigan’s agricultural heritage exemplified by its barns. The awards recognize barn owners who have made the extra effort to maintain or restore historic barns. In the past 28 years of the award’s existence, 108 Michigan barns have been recognized for their unique qualities and/or preservation efforts.

To be eligible, the barn must be in-use, either for continued agricultural purposes or adapted for other uses. Barns must retain their overall appearance — both in their interior and exterior barn characteristics.

Here’s How to Enter Your Barn

Award categories cover barns that continue to be used for agriculture and those that are adapted for other uses and whether the barn is family-owned or the project of a non-profit or commercial entity.

  • Continuing Agricultural Use – Family (Private), Non-Profit or Commercial
  • Adapted to Other Uses – Family (Private), Non-Profit or Commercial


Nominated barns are judged on (1) completeness of information presented in the application, (2) sensitivity and integrity of repairs or modifications, (3) visual appeal, (4) creativity, (5) thoroughness of work and (6) effort expended to repair and maintain.

Application Components:

Four items are required for the submission:

Nominations for the 2024 awards are closed. The three-month window for submitting applications for 2025 will begin Oct. 15, 2024.

Click here to see application form and detailed instructions.

Application materials may be scanned and e-mailed to: [email protected] or via a thumb drive mailed to:
MBPN Barn of Year Committee
11530 Peach Ridge Ave.
Sparta, MI 49345

For questions, contact the program chairman, Keith Anderson.  E-mail: [email protected] or Mobile: 616-540-6701.  

Two barns and their owners were awarded the “Barn of the Year” designation for 2024 at the Michigan Barn Preservation Network’s annual conference on Feb. 24 in East Lansing.

Continuing Agriculture Winner

Johnson Big Barn
Traverse City, MI (Grand Traverse County)
Owners: Dean & Laura Johnson

This Big, Red and Very Visible barn is situated on an 80-acre parcel midway up the Old Mission Peninsula on M-37—just a few feet off the road. It cannot be missed as you drive up the finger of land, north of Traverse City.

It’s a gable-roofed, squarish building (50’ x 55’), but with a long-sloping shed roof extending down one side— not typical of the area’s other barns. It has a fieldstone foundation—some whole, some split stone. The milled wood siding is painted red with white trim. A quilt square adorns the north side.

Built in the 1880s by a civil war veteran, it has been passed down through the family to the current owner, the great grandson (and his wife) of the original owner.

The economy and culture of Old Mission has changed significantly over the 140 years since the barn was built. The old barn has seen dairy cows, feeder cattle, feeder calves, feeder pigs, stalls for work horses, later for saddle horses.  Cherry and apple farming eventually took over and today the barn stores the spray riggs and ladders used in the orchards.

The barn survived, not through any miraculous restoration, but from diligent maintenance through four generations of the same family. They have adapted and updated it as changing times required.

The electrical system has been upgraded. A new ribbed steel roof was put on, replacing the aluminum corrugated roof that had deteriorated due to age and incompatible fasteners. With new seamless gutters and gutter guards, there is no need to clean the gutters by hand on a yearly basis. Large sliding doors and door tracks have been replaced. A barn painter comes around every few years and the wood siding is repainted. The east wall, observed as progressively deteriorating, has been covered in ribbed steel. 

“Preparing a Barn of the Year application is beneficial for both the owner and the barn. The process demands a thorough inspection, and regardless of the contest’s outcome, the barn wins.”

— Dean and Laura Johnson

Family Adaptive Use Winner

Nelson Family Barn
Ada, MI (Kent County)
Owners: Michael and Tricia Nelson

This very inspiring story involves the rescue and restoration of a 180-year-old farmstead that had been in the same family since the 1850s. Our heroes –the Nelson Family– have a passion for protecting land and aging structures. They have renovated a carriage house in their town’s historic downtown, as well as two historic cottages along Lake Michigan.

Ready for another project, they purchased not only the two-acre site with the farm’s principle structures, but also the contiguous 20 acres to protect the property from development. The parcel had been slated for development with plans to demolish the “old farm structures” and subdivide it into two-acre lots to sell. This Kent County location is in a rapidly changing, rapidly developing area not far outside Grand Rapids.

The gambrel-roofed barn is 36 x 55 with 20’ side walls. It has 3-bays, hand-hewn beams and a fieldstone foundation.  

Falling in love with the farmstead and the beauty of the property, the Nelsons began the process to renovate the original structures. Due to advanced deterioration, the farmhouse could not be saved and was demolished in 2022.  The remainder of the original buildings (main barn, silo, milk house, hen house/chicken coop and garage/shop) were subjected to extensive renovations with technical help from Chad Stitt of American Heritage Barn Preservation.

  • Exterior renovations included: resurfacing the siding with rough sawn white pine, replacing windows, replacing/repairing doors, repairing the silo and roof, and painting all buildings.
  • In the interior, they installed cabling to the barn, repaired original flooring, covered original upper floor with white pine, installed handrails and steps to loft, and rebuilt the walkway to the silo.
  • Click here for Before and After pictures.

All this was accomplished in the spring and summer of 2023 in time for their son’s wedding in August.

“This has been a wonderful family project with our six children as well as our new daughter-in-law and her extended family as we prepared to host the wedding.”

— The Nelson Family

Award Presentation

Flanked by MBPN President Tom Irrer on the left and Awards Chair Keith Anderson on the  right, the winners receive the big sign to hang on their barn. Photo 1: Laura and Dean Johnson. Photo 2: The Nelson Family and representatives from American Heritage Barn Preservation, their contractor.

2024 Barn Preservation Honor Roll

In addition to the two Barn of the Year winners, six entries earned Great Michigan Barn status for the owners’ efforts to faithfully rehabilitate and maintain their barn.

Top L to R:

  • B & B Heartwoods, Inc., Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County), William & Bonnie Geschwender, owners
  • Stephenson Barn, South Haven (Van Buren County), Michigan Flywheelers Museum, applicant
  • Griffin Homestead Barn, West Branch (Ogemaw County), Bob Griffin, Jr., owner

Bottom Row L to R:

  • Gleason (Gray) Barn, Spring Lake (Ottawa County), John Gleason & Renee Burton, owners
  • Mt. Wilshire Barn, Clarkston (Oakland County), Oliver Beidoun & Alice Sadler, owners
  • Trails End, Kalkaska (Kalkaska County), Steven J. Brown, owner 

Past “Barn of the Year” Awardees 

Click here for database of Barn of the Year winners from 1997 to 2016. Also see  showcase of winners from 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.