Crowdfunding campaign launched after fire destroys N.B. machinery barn

A farm family in the Sussex area is left picking up the pieces after their machinery barn and everything inside burned to the ground early Saturday.

The Sussex Fire Department says they responded to the blaze at the Verhoeven family farm in Plumweseep, N.B., around 6:20 a.m. Department chief Bill Wanamaker says the structure was fully engulfed upon their arrival.

“We did put water on the owner’s home to cool it off because the siding had started to melt off,” Chief Wanamaker said.

“There was nothing suspicious about it from our side.”

Tyrell Giffin launched a crowdfunding campaign and is speaking on the Verhoevens’ behalf. The goal is to raise funds to replace some of the equipment lost in the fire. The campaign has garnered over $1,000 in donations in just a couple of days.

Giffin says one of the family members noticed the fire while milking the cows. 

“She saw there was smoke coming out of the machinery head, which is on the other side of the road next to the house,” he says.

“When she noticed the smoke coming out, she yelled, ‘Fire!’”

Three of the farm’s employees, the two teenagers inside the nearby home and all of the farm animals, made it out unscathed. The home sustained broken windows and minor damage to the vinyl siding on one side.

“It could have been so much worse,” Giffin says. “It’s hard to take when you look at the house and think, ‘They’re five minutes from losing everything.”  

All of the machinery inside the barn is lost, including a tractor, a snowblower, three John Deere round balers, an in-line round bale wrapper, a farm truck, a Porsche convertible, and various farm tools and supplies.  

“It’s a small-scale dairy farm and a lot of those vehicles and equipment were accumulated and paid for over a long period of time. A lot of head work went into it,” Giffin says.

“To see it all go up over the span of an hour and be completely gone was pretty devastating.”

Giffin says the small farms like the Verhoevens’ can at times be more profitable, but it’s not always a given.

“It is feasible, given the quota management system. But there’s just not big margins to just have enough money laying around to replace that equipment.”

Giffin says those small margins are why the family didn’t carry insurance.

“It’s one of those mentalities of, ‘Oh, that would never happen to me,’ and when you think about insurance premiums, when you don’t think it’s going to happen to you, it’s a lot of money to put out every year when you’re already running pretty slim.”

The goal of the crowdfunding campaign is to raise $50,000 in order to purchase a new hay baler, as that’s the one piece of equipment needed to continue operating the farm come next summer.

“Every bit helps,” Giffin says. “Even if it’s not enough money raised to cover the equipment, it will be an encouragement for the family to be able to know that the community is willing to support them in their time of need.”

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