A fire destroyed the barn on Jenn Leadbeter’s farm in 2022
By Diego Flammini
A member of Ontario’s ag community shed some tears when construction on a new barn on her family’s farm finished.
“It was around the second week of January when we considered the barn officially open,” Jenn Leadbeter told Farms.com. “When we started to bring the horses in, I cried. They were happy tears, but it was overwhelming.”
The new barn has almost 40 stalls, 30 of which are occupied.
Walking through the new barn is bittersweet, she said.
“We miss the old barn because of what it meant to us,” she said. “But with the new barn we got to design the whole thing. It’s new and it’s great, but we still miss the one we had.”
It was around this time last year that Leadbeter’s family lost the old barn.
On March 10, 2022, a fire at J & J Farms, which Jenn owns with her husband James in Newburgh, Ont., destroyed the old structure.
The family also lost equipment, almost 300 bales of hay, cows, chickens, and all its pigs in the fire.
They tried to rescue animals “for as long as we could until the fire department told us to stay away,” Leadbeter told Farms.com following the fire. “So, we just stood there, crying, watching as everything went up in flames.”
With no barn for the horses, the animals stayed outside during the winter.
This meant extra work for the Leadbeters.
“It was tough,” she said. “We had no hydro until the barn was completed, so we had to bucket water and chip away ice in the troughs. Vet visits, and farrier visits, everything had to be done outside.”
One year later, the family hasn’t repurchased any of the animals it lost in the fire.
And they may not, Leadbeter said, adding they’ll likely focus strictly on boarding horses.
“We’re still pretty upset about losing the cows, birds and pigs,” she said. “We feel like we’re replacing them and we don’t want to do that part of it again. Most of the people and their horses who were here for the fire stayed with us the whole time and we have a few new people.”
When the family lost the barn and its contents, the community stepped up to help.
Family, friends and strangers helped support the Leadbeter family to get them to a point where they could open the new barn, Jenn said.
“We had people we don’t know bringing us suppers. All of the things around the barn came from the community,” she said. “The fencing around it, the horse blankets and the feed that we had through the winter. We would have never been able to get through the winter without the community support.”
This is in addition to a GoFundMe page that raised $5,238.
Reflecting on the family’s journey, from a barn destroyed in a fire to opening a new barn in less than a year, taught Leadbeter two lessons.
One is that people can be stronger than they seem.
“When you have to be, you can be stronger than what you think you are,” she said.
And the other lesson is that life can change in an instant.
Since the fire, the family tries not to take anything for granted, she said.
“Life is short and things can be taken from you at any time,” she said. “When we wake up and see how we put everything back together in less than a year, we remember that it was all taken from us in hours. You learn to appreciate everyday life.”
The family also looks at helping others in a different light.
It used to be they would lend a hand when they could. That sentiment has changed.
“You know, you tell someone you’re busy and you’d come by when you have time,” she said. “Not anymore. Seeing how the community dropped what they were doing to help us, that’s how we operate now. If someone needs help, we help right away.”