Clearwater Farm Silo renovation

Renovations on the Clearwater Farm’s two grain silos began late last week. On Wednesday construction crews erected the first of two silver domes on the old stone silos. The second was installed late Thursday afternoon.

The century-old Clearwater Farm gleams on the horizon of Greens Coulee valley in Onalaska this week after two shiny silver domes were affixed to the top of the farm’s two stone silos.

It’s a project Clearwater Farm President Shari Collas has been waiting more than a decade for.

“I came around the corner and immediately I could see the top of the silos,” she said. “I am extremely tickled that they’re going up,”

The two silos had sat uncovered, since before the nonprofit was founded in 1999 to save the historic property from a housing development in the Coulee.

“This farm is from the late 1800s, and it would have been a memory if this group of people wouldn’t have gotten together,” Collas said.

Years of exposure to the elements took a toll on the unprotected silos. Despite this, the stone was in surprisingly good condition when construction crews set to work to install new roofs.

“The bricks were starting to disintegrate,” said Clearwater Farm Vice President Jeff Sharp, who added he was ecstatic to see the domes go up. “We definitely need it.”

Collas said four rows of stone needed to be removed from one of the towers.

“The silos have been in need of repair for many many years,” she said. “To see the farm being rebuilt and renovated, I think is a big deal.”

The silos are the first of a litany of renovations Collas has planned for the farm in the next few years.

“To get them restored, I can’t tell you how excited I was,” she said. “It was something that we really needed to do.”

“The big plan is to renovate the entire farm,“ she said. “When people drive out here, that is the skyline.“

The cost to restore the silos totaled more than $9,000.

“The next step is to keep raising money and start work o the barn,” Sharp said.

He said he’d like to see the upper section of the barn made into classroom space.

Collas said the barn will need to be professionally inspected before proceeding.

“We need to have a couple of professionals come in there,” she said. They’d like to have the barn heated and a commercial kitchen installed so the farm can stay open year-round.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our programming has to end in November,” she said.

Those upgrades and renovations could quickly top $100,000, Collas said.

Most know the Clearwater Farm for the annual haunted house put on by Jaycees every October, but the century-old farm has a lot more to offer than a good scare.

During warmer months, Collas said the farm becomes a classroom for people of all ages.

An annual membership of $50 grants Coulee Region residents access to the farm during daylight hours where they can learn more about the historic farm, meet the animals and partake in community functions held throughout the year.

“We’re this great little gem in the city,” Collas said.

Since the farm’s foundation, it has hosted thousands of children, organizations and schools.

“We are a source of education,” she said. “We work with a lot of community service kids through the court system.”

It’s not just kids doing community service either.

“Many, many schools come out here and volunteer on a weekly basis,” she said.

This includes Holmen’s alternative school which sends students to care for the animals and help out every Thursday.

Every summer the farm hosts as many as eight schools and organizations a week.

Collas said one educational opportunity gives students the chance to learn to grow vegetables. At the end of the program, students learn how to prepare their harvest.

“We’re trying to really reach a lot of demographics,” she said. “It’s a great place to volunteer.”

Sharp said this project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the volunteers.

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Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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