By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent Print | Email
The barn at Blair Farm is being rebuilt after collapsing two years ago from snowload.
HANCOCK, Mass. — One weather event devastated a farming operation that ran for generations.
Another storm gave John Quimby the idea to rebuild.
In February 2011, the barn at Blair Farm on Route 43 was one of many structures throughout the region to lose its roof under heavy snowfall. At the time, Quimby did not feel like he could continue the small dairy operation and sold off about 50 dairy cows and heifers that he had at the time.
That spring, he took back four of the cows, but that was about all he could handle in the areas of the barn that remained unscathed from the harsh winter.
Flash forward to this fall, when Superstorm Sandy blew through Quimby's corner of northwest Massachusetts.
"When Sandy came through, it peeled the first layer of tin off this barn," Quimby said, indicating the section nearest the road, where the wood frame remained intact after the 2011 snowfall.
"My brother knew a guy in Stephentown (N.Y.) who came over and fixed it. He put new boards underneath, under most of it.
"We replaced this whole end, and then we asked him about doing the calf barn."
And after that, it was on to the dairy barn at the rear of the building, which is where a crew of family and friends were hard at work on a recent weekend, trying to get Blair Farm ready for the winter 2012-13.
As he watched the progress, Quimby explained that even two winters ago, when he thought it would just cost too much money to fix the uninsured barn, he was not quite ready to give up on farming.
"The last two calves that were [sold], a guy in Clarksburg bought them with the understanding we could buy them back," he said. "And I bought them back in March, which was only like a month and a half later."
With just four cows that he hopes will be ready to milk this spring, Quimby does not think he will be producing milk at his 2011 level any time soon. In fact, he plans to keep pigs and raise some calves for veal once the barn is ready to go.
The important thing is that he keep Blair Farm a working farm.
Although he works "off the farm" as a school bus driver and custodian at Hancock Elementary School, farming is in Quimby's blood.
"I just hated to see it go away," he said of the barn. "It's been here ever since I was born. It's a long time.
"The farm's been in the family for hundreds of years. I didn't want to see it go away."
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