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Richmond farm bounces back from fire - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Richmond farm bounces back from fire

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RICHMOND, Vt. - A local farming operation is rising from the ashes.  A fire destroyed Maple Wind Farm this past winter, but this was just a temporary setback, and they are back on track to grow their business.

Maple Wind Farm started out in 1999 on 136 acres on a hillside in Huntington raising livestock. Through the years the farm has leased or purchased other parcels of land in Duxbury and Richmond.  But owners Beth Whiting and Bruce Hennessey suffered a big loss on January 13th, when a fire destroyed the old Andrews barn in Richmond, part of a 192 acre parcel they just bought seven months earlier.

"We had a gentleman that lives on our farm come and said that he heard on the radio that the Andrews Barn was in flames and we were just in shock," Whiting said.

The barn was reduced to rubble, the fire also destroyed 12,000 pounds of organic vegetables ready for market, a big walk in freezer, some processed organic meats and equipment. "When all is said and done, we put together an inventory list for the insurance company and it was about $100,000 dollars worth of stuff, but no people no animals. It was just unfortunate to know that all that was gone, " Whiting said.

If there is a bright spot to all of this, the fire happened during a very slow time of year for the farmers. They had a few months to take stock and figure out how to bounce back for the new season ahead.  They had lots of help along the way.
Whiting credits fellow farmers, friends -- even clients -- for helping to get their business back on track following the fire. She says they all wanted to see the business succeed.

The agriculture community in Vermont is very tight knit, and customers also see the value of supporting local farmers. "City Market gave us a sizable loan that is payable back in product, to invest in our poultry facility because they saw the longevity of another local chicken producer providing good product for their customers," Whiting said.
 
Despite the fire, the poultry part of Maple Wind farm is growing -- they produced 4,000 birds last year, and are on track to double that number this year. "We feed a non-GMO grain and they have a lot of room to roam," Whiting said. After chicks spend two weeks in a new brooder, they are moved outdoors onto grass for another seven weeks or so, before they are processed. 

And always focusing on the future,  Maple Wind has leased some of their land in Richmond  to Vermont edible Landscapes. There are big plans for this location. "It's really going to be a dynamic place because there is production, livestock, vegetables, plants and aquaculture. This will be a site where people can come and learn. We will be hosting workshops through NOFA about our poultry processing and will host workshops and programs as well, so there is a lot happening," Whiting said.

And of course -- eventually -- a new barn.  Once a design has been established, Whiting says planning will begin to line up necessary funds to build on their plans.

Maple Wind's chicken processing unit is now USDA inspected, which means they can ship their poultry across state lines, further growing their business.
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