This story first appeared in the October-November 2015 issue of Soybean Business, the magazine of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Click here to read more articles from Soybean Business
Farm family finds ways to make old items new again
Recycling items into home décor has become a popular hobby. With websites like Pinterest and Etsy, ideas on how to recycle and reuse an everyday item can be easily found and shared. One Minnesota farm family decided to do just that, combining their creative ideas and repurposing items around their inherited farm into home décor and furniture.
Brent and Jamie Steffl farm near Redwood Falls, Minn., after growing up in rural Clements, Minn. The Steffl family lives on a 6.5- acre farm that has been in the family for three generations. Brent currently farms a little more than 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans.
Even though Jamie is busy as a high school art teacher and raising her children, Madisen, Leo and Hannah with another on the way, she finds time as owner of the…Barn Store to make hand-made, repurposed home décor at their farm.
“The…Barn Store is a family business, just like our farm,” Jamie says. “My husband helps with lifting, hauling, cutting and creating the items I find to repurpose. Also, our three children, along with my mother, are driving forces to setting up sales each month. We really like to teach our kids about hard work and creativity.”
When Brent’s father passed away in 2011, the Steffls decided to purchase the family farm site. As they began the process of making the farm their own, items were found in the barns, the grove and the shed that had repurposing and decorative qualities. Jamie, along with several creative friends, decided to combine their talents and sell repurposed items for home décor.
As they continued to clean out their newly purchased farm site, Jamie had her eye on the 1941 granary as a possible space to hold a sale of repurposed items. In the summer of 2012, the family had their first sale on the farm.
“As an artist, I like to find both beauty and function in objects,” Jamie says. “Taking something seemingly useless or old and helping others to find beauty or purpose with the item or object is what I enjoy most about my business.”
Jamie’s husband, Brent, says their collaborative effort makes the store successful.
“Jamie is the creative mind behind the items,” Brent says. “She brainstorms the ideas and I help with the heavy lifting. This is something she has always wanted to do so we work together to make it successful.”
Jamie’s favorite item that she has repurposed is an old farm bench into a side table.
“Many of my ideas come from the way the price speaks to me,” Jamie says. “Other places I find inspiration are Pinterest and blogs, but mostly I like to do the inspiring by coming up with a new use for an old item that I haven’t seen in a shop or online.”
Even though Jamie has numerous years of experience in art, she says that it is important to have the right mentality when wanting to repurpose items.
“I love anything with a story and patina. I find old items at auctions, from friends, family and neighbors cleaning up spaces like sheds and barns,” Jamie says. “When I see an item, I ask myself what else this can be used for in a functional yet untraditional way. It’s like an old chicken galvanized feeder hung on the wall vertically as a sconce or an antique silo door turned into a bathroom towel holder. Form follows function. Almost all the items I use have a history and story and are one-of-a-kind creations.”
Jamie’s advice to others wanting to repurpose old items is simple – find the beauty.
“Look at the shapes and line of an object and think outside the box,” Jamie says. “Ask yourself if you can use the item differently. Most of my successes come from the new uses of old things. Find the beauty in everything.”
the…Barn Store is open once a month and also by appointment. They host Saturday sales through the Spring, Summer and Fall as the space is in an authentic uncoiled or heated granary. Dates of the sales can be found at www.farmfabulosity.com