Small Farmer's Journal

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by David Foxley of Lander, WY

In “Little Field Notes,” Spring 2010 issue of SFJ, my son Ryan wrote of the central prominence of a barn in any horse powered farm operation. I would expand that to say that a well thought out, functional barn should be the center piece of any farming endeavor, horse powered or fossil fueled, that involves livestock. Although we do not use draft animals, my wife and I do have a small farm on which we raise and house a variety of animals. Our small, efficient barn is indeed the hub of all farm activity. After building and using two previous barns during our lifetimes, I think the one we now have has achieved a level of convenience, efficiency, and economy that is worth passing on. It could easily handle additional needs with a modest expansion. As is, it functions well.

Here’s the design and some thoughts on our small barn. It was easy and low-cost to build, and after three years of use pretty much meets our needs and expectations. The plan is simple and easily enlarged or modified to fulfill a variety of uses. I make no claim to the design being novel, unique, or necessarily my own; it’s just the end result of many years of using barns that almost worked.

An Efficient Economical Barn

Requirements: We needed a place to store eight tons or so of baled hay, grains and horse tack, provide shelter from high elevation Wyoming winters for two or three saddle horses, house a dozen or so laying hens, a pig or two, and provide a place to milk a cow. It handles all of these chores with flying colors as well as providing a tie stall to saddle a couple of horses out of the rain and snow. At 24’ X 24’ it is about the minimum size needed to accomplish this. Though the barn is not large enough to deal with full sized draft horses; it could easily be enlarged to do so. It cost less than $5,000 to build in 2007.

Construction: The basic structure is a standard pole barn. Pressure treated 4x4s are set three feet deep in concrete. They rise 18” above the loft floor, giving us a short pony wall to bear the load of the rafters and provide increased storage and headroom. Paired 2X6s, bolted to the posts, support the 9” engineered joists. Loft joists are full span @16” OC with a doubled, 2X12 center support beam and 3?4” OSB (oriented strand board), tongue and groove flooring. With careful stacking, this floor/loft will hold up to ten tons of small bales with room for hay drop access. Side post spans are a maximum of eight feet, and end spans are twelve. Larger barns, perhaps with longer spans, would require heavier framing. Purlins on the sides are 2x4s with 2×4 sway braces. Carriage bolts or lag screws secure all lower structural members. Although I have worked as a journeyman carpenter and built this pretty much by myself with some help, its construction is simple and straightforward enough that anyone handy enough to farm can easily put it together. My two sons, both top hands with a hammer, helped me frame the loft floor and roof, and a friend helped with the roofing.

Rafters are site cut 2x10s set at a 10 in 12 pitch, selected to match our house as well as provide headroom and a classic appearance. The loft precludes the use of manufactured trusses, although those with the financial means could certainly use them with a loft space built in. Metal roofing, over 2×4 purlins, was installed by two of us on one fine, early summer morning. It sheds our winter snows easily. The floor, except for the coop and tack room, is road base gravel. is a live, ever-changing subscription website. To gain access to all the content on this site, subscribe for just $5 per month. If you are not completely satisfied, cancel at any time. Here at your own convenience you can access past articles from Small Farmer's Journal's first forty years and all of the brand new content of new issues. You will also find posts of complete equipment manuals, a wide assortment of valuable ads, a vibrant events calendar, and up to the minute small farm news bulletins. The site features weather forecasts for your own area, moon phase calendaring for farm decisions, recipes, and loads of miscellaneous information.

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

We own a 40 jersey cow herd and sell most of their milk to Cobb Hill Cheese, who makes farmstead cheeses. We have a four-acre market garden, which we cultivate with our team of Fjord horses and which supplies produce to a CSA program, farm stand and whole sale markets. Other members of the community add to the diversity of our farm by raising hay, sheep, chickens, pigs, bees, and berries, and tending the forest and the maple sugar-bush.

Personal Food Production

Personal Food Production

from issue:

We can argue about when, but someday within several decades, oil and the plentiful super-market food we take for granted will be in short supply and/or very expensive. We must all start immediately to grow as much of our own food as possible. This is the fun part and is the subject of a vast popular movement highlighted by innumerable books, magazines, and web sites. Square-foot gardening, raised beds, and permaculture are the new rage. We don’t need thirty-million acres of lawns. Flowers aren’t very filling either.



Sustainable is a documentary film that weaves together expert analysis of America’s food system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. In a region dominated by commodity crops, Marty Travis has managed to maintain a farming model that is both economically viable and environmentally safe.

Cultivating Questions Cultivator Setups and Deer Fencing

Cultivating Questions: Cultivator Set-ups and Deer Fencing

We know all too well the frustration of putting your heart and soul into a crop only to have the wildlife consume it before you can get it harvested let alone to market. Our farm sits next to several thousand acres of state game lands and is the only produce operation in the area. As you can imagine, deer pressure can be intense. Neighbors have counted herds of 20 or more in our pastures.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

from issue:

After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

The Brabants Farm

The Brabants’ Farm

from issue:

The Brabants’ Farm is a multi purpose farming operation whose main goal is to promote “horsefarming.” Our philosophy is to support the transformation of regional conventional agriculture and forestry into a sustainable, socially responsible, and less petroleum dependent based agriculture, by utilizing animal drawn technology (“horsefarming”), and by meeting key challenges in 21st century small scale agriculture and forestry in Colombia and throughout South America.

Cultivating Questions A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Cultivating Questions: A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Market gardening became so much more relaxing for us and the horses after developing a Horsedrawn Guidance System. Instead of constantly steering the horses while trying to lay out straight rows or cultivate the vegetables, we could put the team on autopilot and focus our whole attention on these precision tasks. The guidance system has been so effective that we have trusted visiting chefs to cultivate the lettuce we planned on harvesting for them a few weeks later.

Organic To Be or Not To Be

Organic: To Be or Not To Be

from issue:

How do our customers know that we’re accurately representing our products? That’s the key, the reason that a third party verification system was created, right? I think this is the beauty of a smaller-scale, community-based direct market food system. During parts of the year, my customers drive past my sheep on their way to the farmers’ market. At all times of the year, we welcome visitors to our farm. In other words, our production practices are entirely open for our customers to see.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate Part 2

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 2

Finding just the right cover crop-tillage combination for crops planted the last half of June has always been a real challenge in our location. While surface-tilling mature rye and vetch in May works well for fall crops established in July and August, this cover crop-tillage combo does not allow enough time for decomposition and moisture accumulation for end-of-June plantings.

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

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