How the Perk Farm transformed a grain bin into a dream house

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

“You can’t just rely on one enterprise,” Lauren Perkins says of farming in today’s world. “You have to diversify.”

Which is exactly what the Perk Family Organic Farm, located in Greenbrier County, is doing. By adding a grain bin they’ve transformed into a rental home, the Perkins family is expanding head-first into agritourism. 

Life on the farm

Photo by RealWV

You’ve probably heard about “agritourism.” It’s a fancy way of saying that you pay to visit a farm for activities such as picking produce, navigating a corn maze, or farm-to-table dining. Family farms have turned to these methods as a way to not only educate the public about agriculture but also to help pay the bills. 

Lauren sees it as a way to help secure her family farm’s future. 

“Dad’s got four weddings to fund,” Lauren says in light of her and her sisters. “Building a pole barn on the farm might’ve made more sense, but I suggested we build a grain silo house.”

Over the years, she says each successive generation has made a major and lasting contribution. Henry Perkins (2nd generation) added turkey farms, Rem Perkins (3rd generation) transitioned the farm to certified organic, and adding agritourism might be Lauren’s (4th generation) contribution.

Turning a grain bin into a house

Photo by RealWV

In September 2022, the Perkins family began moving dirt. They chose a picturesque location on the farm with nearby road access. Then they trucked in the grain bin in pieces and began the construction process. 

“Trying to figure out how to do things in a curved structure was hard,” Lauren says with a chuckle. “I’ve never designed a house and hope I never have to again for a while.”

She says dairy farmers are expected to take on a variety of roles each day, but this experience was brand new. 

“Everyone in the family and on the farm pitched in, including Chris Boggs,” she says. “John Planker and his sons helped with a lot of the construction. He’s worked here on the farm with us on things for years.” 

Relocating the grain bin pieces and building the stick frame inside its walls were the most difficult parts, according to Lauren. “If we had known now what we learned, we would have done it completely different. But hey, you live and learn.” 

Along the way, they incorporated materials from their farm and family as often as possible. The doors and stairs are constructed from wood fashioned by Lauren’s grandfather. The bricks are made from clay found on the farm grounds. Milk jugs stand in for table stands from the dairy. Cattle fencing lines the stairs leading upstairs. Booby Cooke lives beside the farm and helped make the barrel tables. 

“It’s cool to have pieces of our farm from the generations here in the house,” Lauren reflects. 

The house also upholds certain family farm traditions. 

“On every dairy farm, the ceilings are blue,” Lauren tells us. “Dad says it keeps the ghosts away. So we made the ceilings in here blue too.”  

The house is two-stories with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen. living room, washer/dryer, a bathtub upstairs, and central heat/air. 

The appliances came from the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and the furniture came from Lauren’s grandmother as well as area thrift stores. 

One thing it doesn’t have is WiFi. “When you’re here, you’ll want to disconnect so you can connect with the farm.” 

A stocked pond by the driveway is a dream come true for anglers of all ages. A dock will be added in the future. The house is also near the Greenbrier River Trail, which affords walkers, runners, and bikers picturesque views for miles.  

Plenty to do on the farm

Lauren envisions the grain silo as more than a vacation rental. It will be an educational tool for her family’s way of life. 

“There are some people who still think milk comes from a grocery store,” she shares. 

“If you want to, you can work on the farm while you’re staying here. We’re totally organic. Corn will be planted near the house so guests can pick their own and learn about how the whole process.”

‘I’m learning’

The hospitality industry is new to Lauren and the Perkins family. “I’m learning,” she offers earnestly. “What we want to do is show people how cool it is to live here in rural West Virginia.” 

She points to partnerships with local restaurants such as Mountain Table and Taste of Heaven Bakery as evidence that the local culture has much to offer. 

“We’ve had guests from three states already,” she says, “This summer a group of locals has it rented because they need a space for a family gathering. We try to be flexible.” 

Lauren says a number of people have already driven to the home just to take a look around. 

As Lauren leads this new chapter in the Perk Farms Organic Dairy, she is ultimately grateful. “The farm has given our family so much. To be able to give back is really cool. It’s fun to share your history.”

To book a stay at the grain bin, visit this link

Located on the Perk Farm Organic Dairy, “the grain bin house” is available as a vacation rental. Lauren Perkins hopes it will diversify the family business while also educating visitors about rural life. Photo by RealWV.
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