As the Vermont food community continues to gather in support of Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury following a barn-destroying fire, another pair of barns has fallen. At 4:30 a.m. last Thursday, 10 calves were killed when their home at Stoneholm Farm in Putney collapsed under the weight of massive snowfall. The morning of February 6, the dairy barn at Taylor Farm in Londonderry gave way under an avalanche of melting snow.
According to Taylor Farm’s owner, Jon Wright, the deluge killed one cow. An employee, Randy Stannard, was buried in snow but was quickly rescued and hospitalized. He is in stable condition, with no broken bones. Wright says he’s grateful no one else was hurt, including the seven draft horses that pull winter farm visitors on sleigh rides.
The barn collapsed once before, on February 7, 2009. Following the first cave-in, says Wright, he was able to recover quickly. This time, he is less certain. “I’m a little daunted,” he says. For now, he hopes insurance and loans will cover enough to allow him to raise a small number of cows and continue to produce his farmstead Gouda.
The farmer immediately sold 20 of his cows — about 20 percent of his total stock — to lighten his staff’s workload. Beyond that, Wright says, “I haven’t even begun to figure out what we’re going to do. People are offering to do benefits and fundraising.” While no benefit plans have solidified at press time, Wright expresses gratitude for the help of his local fire and rescue team, and for the quiches and breads that have streamed in from neighbors.
Most importantly, Wright says he hopes his and the other recent farm tragedies will raise Vermonters’ awareness. “So many Vermont farmers are really in dire straits right now,” he says. “Vermont really has to rally around its farmers and not wait until a barn collapses. I can’t emphasize enough that I’m not the only one struggling.”