People put strange things on their silos. This family on Highway 13 in the Town of Richfield, near Marshfield, placed an old car on top of their unused silo. Photo By Gloria Hafemeister
New uses for upright silos
Farming is constantly changing and one of the areas that continually changes is the method of storing feed.
Silos were adopted by Wisconsin farmers in the 1880s. One of the first silos, an underground one, was built in Fort Atkinson in Jefferson County in 1877.
Two of the earliest above-ground silos were built in 1880 in Oconomowoc, Waukesha County, and Alderly, Dodge County.
John Steele of Alderly, played a key role, following his election to the Assembly, in securing funds for the University of Wisconsin to investigate the potential of storing feed in these upright structures.
Silos have been called: Silent sentinels on the rural horizon; exclamation points beside the barns.
Silos were built in a variety of colors and using different materials. Older silos were made of wood, some of field stone, and some of brick or tile or metal.
Early concrete silos were poured and then they were built with concrete blocks.
Then in the late 1940s A.O.Smith Company of Milwaukee started making blue steel, glass-lined sealed silos (Harvestores).
Other companies followed with similar designs.
Upright silos are being abandoned on many of today’s modern farms. Bunkers and bags are replacing these towers for feed storage. This means on some farms, silos are standing un-used.
new uses for upright silos
Some farmers choose to dismantle and remove the silos from the farmstead. Others have found new uses for these structures.
Mitch and Colleen Perkl found a new use for the abandoned concrete stave silo on their Pittsville farm.
Perkl said about four years ago he commented that he thought he’d build his farm office on top of one of his concrete silos. He was joking but as he and friends talked about it the joke turned into reality.
He originally thought of building it on a shorter silo but then chose to instead put a structure on top of the taller of the two silos.
He built the structure on the ground and then used a crane to lift it to the top of the silo. He built a wrought iron spiral staircase to get to the inside of the room.
He chose not to use it for his office but family and friends enjoy going to the room to enjoy the beautiful view.
“Fourth of July we go up there to watch fireworks,” he says. “Our farm is on a hill anyway so when we are on top of that silo we are actually at the same level as the nearby Pittsville water tower. From up here we can see fireworks from 14 different towns around here.”
Last year the Perkls hosted the Pittsville FFA Alumni 29th annual dairy breakfast. The breakfast is a cost-share breakfast, which means visitors pay the farmer’s share of the profit for the commodities they produce.
Perkl says during that event 600 visitors had an opportunity to climb the staircase to enjoy the view on top of the silo.
The inside of the silo is insulated and lined with knotty-pine paneling. It has electric heat so it is usable all year around.
The top of the silo tips up to allow the family to put up or take down the flag that flies above it. In December they place a lighted Christmas tree on the peak.
Building the silo top structure was a fun project for Perkl who does a lot of repair on his family’s farm. He has a job off the farm and also raises cash crops and dairy steers.