A bunch of teenagers in red T-shirts spent Friday toiling in the sun to fix up an old barn off Route 77 in Corfu. And they did so willingly, even enthusiastically.
They spent the day scraping off old paint, powerwashing, brushing on new red paint, replacing worn out two-by-fours and doing landscaping. They'll do the trim and wrap things up Saturday and then enjoy a well-deserved banquet Sunday.
The workers are students from BOCES in Batavia and Albion High School in Orleans County and the barn is one of only five chosen nationwide to get an overhaul thanks to a generous donation from the Campbell's Soup Company.
It's all part of a project to help sustain family farms and aid the next generation of farmers. It also provides scholarship money for a prestigious six-week leadership conference this summer in Washington, D.C..
The Campbell's initiative is being done in conjunction with the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) Alumni Association, FFA student chapters, farm families and the agricultural community.
The soup maker ponied up $250,000 for the coast-to-coast campaign called "Help Grow Your Soup." Of those funds, $75,000 was set aside to refurbish five specially selected barns (at about $5,000 each) and provide scholarships to FFA students.
The barns, iconic symbols of family farms, had to be visible to the community and belong to a multi-generational farm family that produces something used to make soups.
The local one belongs to the Reynolds family, who operate a 600-cow dairy (for cream of broccoli, maybe?). The Reynolds also own 1,500 acres of land on which they grow feed crops. They sell their milk to Syracuse-based Dairylea Cooperative.
The other "Help Grow Your Soup" barns are in Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee and Kansas.
The hulking Allegheny Road structure is about 60 feet long and 40 feet wide and built sometime in the 1800s, no one seems to know exactly when. It's been used for hay storage but used to be where cows were fed and milked by John Reynolds' late parents.
The Reynolds built a new milking structure in 1997 and a new barn last year. Since the old barn was no longer essential, the family thought of tearing it down.
But family friend Barry Flansburg sort of intervened. He's also a Future Farmers of America alumnus and thought the Reynold's barn would be a good choice for the Campbell's opportunity. Apparently, his lobbying efforts weren't wasted.
"You're the first person I thought of, and you're right off Route 77," Flansburg said to Shelley Reynolds, who is delighted her family was chosen for the refurbishment project.
She likes what she and John do for a living, too.
"There's something about raising calves and seeing them become milk producers," Shelley said. "Sometimes you have to do chores on Christmas Eve, but you're responsible for it all and it's a good life. My kids never spent one day in day care. ... we operate as a family."
The family also includes Tyler, 18, MacKenzie, 17, and Andrew, 15.
Incidentally, MacKenzie is this year's Genesee County Dairy Princess and Tyler will be a freshman at Cornell this fall.
She says the kids say after college they'll come back to Corfu to run the dairy.
"It's their choice," she said, adding that it wouldn't be a bad one either.
Pictured above: Left: Christina Kirby, 11th grader at Albion; Right: Sarah Connor, 10th grader at Albion.