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Are You Covered Enough? We Weren’t


Early Monday morning, January 13, 2014 our barn and tractor shed at the old Andrews Farm on Route 2 in Richmond burned to the ground. The first emergency call came in at 5 AM to the Richmond, Huntington, Underhill, Jericho, and Bolton fire departments, but by 6:30 AM the barn was a complete loss, leaving firefighters with the task of controlling damage to nearby properties. We were up and doing chores at the home farm in Huntington and didn’t get the initial call from our Richmond neighbors. Our friend Josh, who lives on the farm, had to find us outside to give us the news after he heard it on the radio.

Cause of the Fire Undetermined – No Animals or People Hurt

The cause of the fire is undetermined at this point, but we speculate that flooding from the weekend rains had overwhelmed our sump pump in the bottom floor of the barn resulting in water infiltrating our electric system. Truth is we’ll never know for sure. The good news is that no animals or people were hurt or injured and no other properties were damaged. Many thanks to all the volunteer firefighters for their valiant effort and selfless service.

Structures, Storage Crops & Equipment Lost – Woefully Underinsured

As many of you know, Maple Wind Farm had just taken ownership of the Andrews Farm in June of 2013. Through that process we obtained insurance for our buildings there, which was based on the assessed value of the barn and property. The insurance company made the assumption for us that that was the appropriate level. Even if they had offered to double our coverage, I don’t know that we would have said yes. We were already pretty well extended at that point. The additional costs weren’t in our business plan.

As we sort through what we’ve lost – all our vegetable cooling capacity, meat freezers, poultry processing and production equipment, vegetable production and washing tools and equipment, scales, computers; bathroom, office and retail facilities; well water infrastructure and vacuum pumps, and, of course, storage space – we’ve come to the realization that we’re woefully underinsured based on what it would take to replace everything we’ve lost. This does not include the 10,000 lbs. of root vegetables and some of our frozen chickens and turkeys that were stored in the barn. Inventory insurance never even came up. I assure you, it will in the future.

Photo taken by Jared Katz at the Oct 2013 Andrews Farm Celebration with tours of the new poultry processing unit
Photo taken by Jared Katz at the Oct 2013 Andrews Farm Celebration with tours of the new poultry processing unit

Poultry Processing Unit Still Intact

The new “plant in a box” we invested in last summer was still standing when we inspected the fire damage.  We could see only scald damage to some of the exterior walls, melted AC and heater units, and melted vacuum and compressor lines leading to the facility. What remains  undetermined until we operate the unit, is what kind, if any, electrical or water damage  was caused with the walls by the high heat — we are hopeful that we’ll be up and running for our first chickens in June!

An Emotional Day

It was an emotional day on Monday.  Shortly after we arrived on the scene, messages of sorrow and support started rolling in. The response by our community of friends, farmers, customers, and our local and state officials has been inspiring and overwhelming, a testament to our extraordinary, caring and committed community here in Vermont.  More than the loss of property, it was the expressions of support that prompted our tears.

Still Selling Frozen Meats

Fortunately we have off- site freezer storage in Williston and at home in Huntington so we still have plenty of 100% grass-fed and finished beef, pastured-raised pork, and frozen chickens to sell that can be ordered online, at the Burlington Winter Farmers Market (next one is this Sat Jan 18th) or purchased at our Huntington farm.  We are always looking for additional markets and restaurants to supply with our pastured meats so please spread the word!

Raising More Veggies & Poultry in the Spring

Though some of our vegetable seed was lost in the fire, this spring we will certainly be seeding vegetable trays in our greenhouse which is located in Bolton, along with deciding on where our brooder will be set up for our first batch of pasture-raised chickens. Production will continue “as usual” at Maple Wind Farm, while we push forward to rebuild and re-equip our chicken brooding, storage and distribution barn in Richmond.

Maple Wind Not the Only Business Affected– Vermont Edible Landscapes also Takes a Hit

Our friend Meghan Giroux, owner of Vermont Edible Landscapes, leases property and had used the Andrews Barn, also suffered loss of property and a place to hold her workshops this spring.  She is planning to carry forward with her plans to erect a greenhouse on our land to grow her plants and spread her wealth of knowledge to the community.  Thanks for hanging in there Meghan!

We will keep you posted on our progress, stay tuned to our website and Facebook.

With our sincerest thanks,

Bruce, Beth, Bryn and David

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Bruce Hennessey and Beth Whiting
Bruce Hennessey and Beth Whiting
Bruce spent eleven years in the classroom teaching science and mathematics to grades kindergarten through 12. He received his M.Ed. from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH. From 1999—to 2005 he directed North Country Camps, a summer residential camp focused on wilderness trips with farming offered as part of an extensive in-camp program. He has served on several boards: VT Grass Farmers Association, Aikido of Champain Valley, Rural Vermont, and at present, NCC Chief’s. Beth is an artist, master gardener, and organizer, who also spent many years directing wilderness trips through both Wilderness Ventures and North Country Camps. Beth received her M.Ed from Lesley College in Boston in Creative Arts after a B.S. in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She is no stranger to running her own business; her experience as an entrepeneur began at age 12, with successful business forays into community mapping, hand-painted clothing and adventure travel. She currently is the sales manager, bookkeeper, and marketer for the farm. Beth and Bruce enjoy the farming lifestyle and can’t think of any better way than sharing it with their son David and his younger sister Bryn. When they are not farming, they are skiing with our family, taking hikes, biking and watching soccer games.

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