Community Rallies After Fire Destroys Little Valley Farm
LITTLE VALLEY — A community that has benefited for more than two decades through a shared produce program is now showing its support to a Little Valley farm after a massive fire destroyed a century-old barn.
Deb Ritchie, co-owner of Native Offerings Farm, said she and her husband are just now starting to get over the shock after the Nov. 28 blaze at their Maples Road farm. Ritchie said she noticed flames coming from their main barn — originally built in 1900 with many upgrades since — around 9 p.m. and called 911.
Five fire departments in the Cattaraugus County area were summoned to help douse the blaze.
The Ritchies used the barn to store produce, tools and equipment for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program they have run for 16 years in Cattaraugus County and about 25 years altogether.
Through the CSA, the pair offer “shares” to the community that include a variety of organic vegetables. Families interested can buy the shares (like a subscription) and in return receive seasonal produce.
Ritchie said more than 425 families receive produce, including carrots, cabbage and herbs, from their farm during the summer season. About half that number receive produce during the winter season.
“This is definitely shocking,” Ritchie told The Post-Journal on Thursday. “I feel like we are coming out of it now. There’s been an outpouring a sympathy from the community.”
In addition to the barn, the fire also destroyed a wash house built in the 1980s. All told, the Ritchies lost 10,000 pounds of squash, 6,000 pounds of cabbages and 8,000 pounds of onions. The couple also lost six tractors, though a building constructed last year was saved.
“Families would contract with us to grow for the whole season as part of this shared program,” Ritchie said. “Anything that you could grow we grew it here.”
No one was hurt in the fire, including animals kept on the farm. Ritchie said she and her husband, Stew, live in a home across the street from the farm.
Ritchie said the barn and some of the tractors were insured. She said the plan is to clean up and regroup before building a new barn and purchasing new equipment. With the summer season as busy as it is, she said they have a few months to get a system in place.
“We’re very dedicated to get this up and going again,” she said. “We have to refine and go lean.”
A GoFundMe account (gofundme.com/native-offerings-farm-rebuild) has been started by a local community member to help the couple rebuild the farm. In three days, more than $10,700 has been donated.