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Sterling woman is quite the barn-burner

Photographer documents local barn tours on DVD, and helps preserve farms’ history in the process

STERLING – In July, the Whiteside County Barn Tour celebrated its tenth year of bringing city folks into the country for a closer look at the stalwart structures that helped a nation grow: Barns.

But what do people who missed the tour do after the barn doors are closed?

That’s where a Sterling photographer comes in. Not only is Linnea Koch helping bring the tours to people who missed them, or who might want a memento of the event, she’s helping preserve the legacy of buildings that are as much a part of farm’s family as the people who use them.

Since 2014 – when she received some seed money from Ed Ebersohl, one of the tour’s volunteers – she’s documented the barns on the tour for DVDs that she sells.

The annual tours raise funds for the Whiteside County Farm Bureau Foundation. The group’s goal, according to its website, is to “provide awareness, knowledge and resources to facilitate a grassroots effort to preserve the barns and agricultural history of Whiteside County.” This year, the annual 2-day event tried something different, starting in Lee County for a change. The tour stopped at eight farms along the way as it worked back into Whiteside County.

People touring the countryside now and then might wonder just what the outbuildings are used for or what stories are found inside those barn wood beauties.

Koch answers as many of those questions as she can on her DVDs. She takes photos and interviews farmers and people on the tour.

“I got help from a friend with questions for interviews with farmers and visitors,” she said.

About 350 hours went into creating her first DVD in 2014, compiling the information and burning it on to a DVD, her husband, Wolf Koch, said.

“We just did the DVDs ourselves,” he said, but that proved to be too time consuming, so now they’re done professionally.

“People loved them,” his wife said. “They thought it was a great idea.”

The 2014 Barn Tour DVD features narration and music, along with information obtained from the farm family interviews, portraits of the barns, and details on their interiors. It also features a variety of farm scenes from the local landscape.

Koch, who’s originally from Geneva, didn’t do interviews for the 2015 DVD. Instead, she included her own story about her journey from the suburbs of Chicago to Sterling and what she learned by moving to farm country.

The 2016 DVD intermingles photos of European barns with ones on that year’s local tour, allowing viewers to see similarities, and differences, between agricultural architecture. The DVD also has a special gem – photos of a 1957 Porsche tractor found in a European barn.

“What farmer wouldn’t like to have that?” she asked.

Since she missed the tour’s first few years, prior to 2014, Koch produced a DVD for the 2008-13 tours with barn photos and music.

She’s currently working on putting together 2017’s DVD.

Koch said she’d someday like to do a book on barns.

While some barns are crumbling, others still thrive under the care of owners, standing proudly above the corn and soybeans. Some people continue to use them on the farm while others have found a new use for them, and there are those who save them simply because they can’t bear to see them fade from their farm’s landscape.

“I like the structures,” she said. “Steel-sided not so great, but I get that it’s to preserve them. On the inside, they’re still the old barn.”


Contact Linnea Koch Photography at 815-626-7124 or to order DVDs: $20 for one, $35 for two, $45 for three, or $55 for four.


Find Whiteside County Barn Tour on Facebook, or go to for more information on the tour.

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