Food & Farm Soil

Fire Ravages Family Farm – PLEASE HELP

Written by Sven Eberlein

Two weeks ago, on September 3, a fire at Soul Food Farm in Vacaville, California, burned down two chicken houses with 1000 baby chicks trapped in it, the old 1880s barn, thirty acres of pasture for the meat birds, beautiful oaks, and all the old plum trees. Alexis and Eric Koefoed, who in the late 1990s had bought the farm that had been untended for 30 years, had been poised to launch their CSA of free-roaming and pasture-raised chickens for both eggs and meat in October. Like most small farms, they were operating without a safety net, so the fire was absolutely devastating.

In a true outpouring of support and community, fundraising dinners, raffles and a chicken house building workday have been scheduled, but to keep operations going any small and large cash donation is needed and welcomed.

You can donate by clicking this link to PayPal; those who dislike PayPal can also mail a check made out to Soul Food Farm to 6046 Pleasants Valley Rd., Vacaville, CA 95688.)

fire damage

This is a letter from Alexis, from shortly after the fire, as quoted on the Soul Food blog

On the night of September 3, at 1:30 a.m. Eric woke up to find a fire moving across Soul Food Farm’s fields, possibly begun on the property next door. The flames were as high as the trees. In the commotion suddenly three strangers appeared, like angels, and started helping us. They made a water line around the chicken houses, fire breaks, helped rescue baby chicks and were utterly amazing.

Two chicken houses caught on fire, and the we lost 1000 baby chicks. Trapped. Our old 1880s barn burned and it was almost too much at that moment. Thirty acres of pasture for the meat birds is gone and several old beautiful oaks, all the old plum trees that were our connection to the original homesteaders.

When we could see the farm this morning we found that the front of the farm escaped and looks much like it always has. Across the creek all is burned up to the top of the ridge, and the fire just marched on along the hillside and down the valley.

Fire burned into several meat bird corrals but the fire crews were able to stop it before more animals were lost. Those fire crews and firefighters were amazing. As of this morning they are still here on the farm putting out spot fires and will stay for several more days.

We are cleaning up and building a new quick little chicken house this morning for the 600 baby chicks that arrived in the post. replacing water buckets, feeders, baby chick lights, and feed.

Emma and Justin are both here being such good help. Thank you to all for the kind words and offers of support. We will let you know if and how you can help when we have found our bearings.

It’s people like Alexis who make all the difference in changing the way we look at food and give us all an opportunity to eat and support locally grown and raised, sustainable food. It’s one thing to talk about how screwed up our food system is, but these hard-working family farmers are the ones to make it possible for us to walk our talk. We can’t trust big agribusiness with their campaigns to go organic and green, it’s like Wall Street saying they’ll regulate themselves. If we want to change the very mechanisms that contribute to soil depletion, bad diets and huge profits for a few CEOs, supporting our local food growing families is the most clear and radical statement we can make.

fire burning

What always amazes me the most about the effects of small-scale and local farms is not just the delicious and nutritious food they produce but the community they create. Excerpts from Alexis’ most recent blog post “Feet on the ground, chin up”: Soul Food Farm belongs to everyone now attests to that:

I’m very in love with this farm, every tree, every inch of pasture, all the crazy chickens and all the space to make new dreams.

We have had ourselves buried in work all week but have read every email, every letter, and listen to every phone message. It amazes me that so many people knew about it. It never occurred to me how far our eggs and chickens had traveled. Sometimes, it is overwhelming to me how much people love Soul Food Farm.

Our good neighbors Bill and Fern, who own Sunny Slope Farm, are helping us set up some quick irrigation in the olive orchard , and Matthew and Terces who own Be Love Farm are lending their new seed driller and irrigation pipe to get us back on track. I see waves of grass bending in the breeze very soon, and hungry chickens pecking away.

Soul Food Farm belongs to everyone now, and people working and helping and eating together will make it all seem more hopeful.

We continue to do our everyday chores, and I appreciate the routine. New baby chicks arrived on Friday. Two very loving friends did the egg deliveries this week. We are moving the remaining meat birds over to the front of the farm and redesigning our layout to accommodate all these birds at the front of the property.

Thank you to everyone for all the help you are giving to two very tired farmers, who for one brief moment thought they were finished. Now, with so much concern extended to us, it would be selfish to not get back up and try again.

My dear friend Kathryn wrote to me, “Feet on the ground, chin up.” That is our new motto.

They can use every little piece of help they can get, and if you have a few extra bucks to help Soul Food Farm, please consider helping them get back on their feet.

You can donate by clicking this link to PayPal; those who dislike PayPal can also mail a check made out to Soul Food Farm to 6046 Pleasants Valley Rd., Vacaville, CA 95688.)


photos: Soul Food Blog

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Sven Eberlein

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