PICTON — This year was supposed to be a growth year for Sunset Cabins and Farms. The mixed farm and agritourism operation at Picton, in Prince Edward County, was looking to double its flower production.
A January 27 fire halted those plans but a quick response from firefighters and support from the community has helped put the farm back on track.
Farmer Matt Rabbie, who farms with his wife, parents and his brothers’ family, saw nothing amiss when he left the shop at around 5 p.m. on Jan. 27. He went to do chores in the sheep barn while his dad went to the beef barn. They went to their respective homes at 5:30 p.m.
Then their house lights started to flicker. Rabbie’s father looked out the window and saw smoke pouring out of the shop, which housed the farm’s connection to Hydro. Rabbie ran to check on the cattle in the attached calving barn. Fortunately, they’d all left the barn, so he just closed the gate behind them. His father jumped on the tractor in the shop. It was behind a partition, on the safe side of the fire, so he simply drove it straight out.
Firefighters were soon on scene and managed to contain the blaze to the one building. It was close: the flames melted the siding on his parent’s house. Another nearby barn with heifers and horses was only 40 ft. from the burning shop, but it didn’t catch. Nor did the sheep-filled Coverall about 100 ft. away, although some embers burned their way through the fabric-covered roof.
The Fire Marshal estimated damage at around $250,000. The shop contained the farm’s germination chamber for its greenhouses, all the seeding equipment, and around $12,000 in flower bulbs, Rabbie said. They’ve ordered new seeding equipment and replaced many of the bulbs. “We won’t be expanding like I thought we would,” he said.
But the farmers are grateful, not just that no people or animals were hurt, but also how their community rallied around them. Farmers were calling by the dozen the night of the fire to see if they needed space for their calves. A GoFundMe was started to raise $15,000 to help them out and had raised $14,180 by Feb. 25. As many as 40 people turned out on Jan. 30 to help clean up the wreckage.
Said Rabbie: “We’re just incredibly appreciative of the support.”