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“It’s been a long haul”

FRANKFORD — As 2024 approached, milk production was getting closer to restarting at an Eastern Ontario family dairy farm whose barn was destroyed in a devastating fire 39 months earlier. Much of the herd — 60 of 80 animals — was also lost in the Aug. 27, 2020, blaze west of Frankford.

“It’s been a long haul, and it’s not quite over yet but the end is in sight, and the milk is soon to flow,” Suurdt Farms posted Dec. 14 on the operation’s Facebook page with accompanying photos of the reconstruction project.

Durham Transport’s Bobby Sayers, owner of the local milk-hauling company, said he didn’t know when pickups will resume at the farm. “I’ve been talking to DFO, and they’re not even sure. I’m hoping this spring, but I’m not 100 percent sure,” Sayers said.

The pace of the barn rebuild initially ran afoul of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) organization. An Ontario dairy farmer gets a standard 24 months, plus one potential 90-day extension, to restart milk shipments from their farm after a catastrophe, or risks losing the farm’s quota. In the summer of 2022, the DFO denied Maurice and Tiana Suurdt’s application for a deadline extension beyond the usual 90 days, but on appeal granted the farmer until the end of February 2023. Another extension was granted, though everyone involved was tight-lipped on the details of that additional accommodation. The Suurdts’ regional DFO rep, Adam Petherick, would only tell Farmers Form last March that the board had made “a decision” on the matter.

Maurice Suurdt has been working long hours as his own contractor on the rebuild. The father of five told Farmers Forum in December 2022 that he wished to avoid taking on too much debt and conceded the original barn had been underinsured. He estimated the replacement to be worth an estimated $1.4 million to $1.6 million.

The project at the end of Suurdt Road includes a new freestall pack barn with parlour and bunker silos to replace the 1905-era tie-stall barn and two upright silos lost in the fire. Three tractors were also destroyed in the blaze.

Source : Farmersforum

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