Letter: A plea for help for a Berkshire farmer with bad luck

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To the editor:

Yesterday when Ben Havill, my "go to" expert on all house and garden issues arrived to help me, I asked about a Facebook message I'd received concerning a Go Fund Me website. "Something about your farm," I said. He told me that EmmaLee Huber who works at his father's dairy farm in Tyringham had created it. This is Hav's Farm written up by The Berkshire Eagle this summer, one of only three dairy farms left in the Berkshires.

Ben's story and the reason for the Go Fund Me Campaign:

"It was a terrible year for hay, a very wet summer and when the grass finally dried out, the tractor was broken. It took a month to get fixed because many others needed service. By the time the tractor was repaired, it was raining again so very little hay was baled. The farm always needs to buy some hay at the end of the winter but because of rain, everyone needs it so cost is double this year — Approximately $5.75/small bale. Hav's farm has 164 animals counting milking cows, calves and heifers and beef cattle. Larger animals eat one bale per day — the farm uses 100 bales each day in winter plus grain, at $5,000/month.

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With milk prices low and the projected $60,000 needed just for feed, Fred Havill's application for a loan from the farm credit agency which usually lends to him was rejected. They think Fred should just give up. But Fred Havill doesn't want to give up!

Fred Havill, Ben's father, is in his mid 70s. Fred has worked the farm every day of his life for 40 years since he moved from Highlawn Farm where he was herd master and began to rent the barn and pasture in the Tyringham Valley from the Urquhart family so he could have his own business. For all of those 40 years, he's milked and cared for his animals every day. There are no days off for dairy farmers! Now he has only Ben, a nephew and EmmaLee Huber to help him.

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And then came the fire of Wednesday, Nov. 28. Someone had been working on the hopeless old tractor parked in the hayloft and did not fully connect a plug that later sparked and the tractor caught fire. Ben was in his apartment nearby, smelled the smoke, ran to the farm.

Fred Havill, having stared work at 4 a.m., was in his house showering. Having smashed his nose years before, he has no sense of smell. Ben, seeing flames coming from the 20-foot-high loft windows, grabbed two milk pails, ran to the loft where the tractor was parked and began to throw milk on the burning hay bales. A helper ran in with water and Ben was able to douse the flames and throw the bales onto the snow. He then doused himself and his neck kerchief with water and pulling the kerchief over his nose, took the burning tires off the tractor and wheeled them onto the snow. (Burned his hand badly and as he told the story, I noticed the bandage.) He saved the barn and the cows in their stalls under the loft from burning to death. The fire department (volunteer) arrived 15 minutes later and put the fire out but the tractor is a total loss as well as all the feed.

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So added to the cost of feed ($60,000) is the loss of the tractor. They have found a replacement for $30,000. Now, the amount needed is actually $90,000.

If you'd like to help, here's how: https://www.gofundme.com/6chegfs.

Jane Ryan,



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