In a highly unusual severe weather event here in New England on June 1st, multiple tornadoes hit western Massachusetts, including the small town of Monson. The town itself sustained major structural damage to homes, businesses, churches and schools. In addition, a local farm was in the twister’s path.
Jessica Bailey, one of seven siblings raised on the farm, called the Farm Aid Hotline to report what had happened and seek assistance for her parents Sandy and Leo Bailey. Their Raging Acres Farm raises horses, sheep, goats and chickens, and sells free-range eggs as well as cordwood from its 55 acres of heavily forested, hilly land. Though, luckily, no one was hurt and no structures came down, 30-40 acres of forest were torn apart, leaving behind a tangled, impassable and dangerous mess of shattered trees, broken branches and uprooted trunks. Assorted objects, or portions of them, including chunks of a roof, pieces of fencing, a clothes basket and other things now litter what remains of the woods.
New storms passing through in the days since the first of June have raised the fearsome possibility of lightning strikes setting off what now amounts to a tinderbox of blasted trees, including very old, very big oaks. Jessica also reported that standing water in what had been a beaver pond was just plain gone, either sucked up into the tornado or dispersed so widely that the pond itself disappeared.
Here are two photos that Jessica sent in to us. The first is a shot of damage to the farm’s forested land. And the second is a shot of the tornado itself after it moved on from the farm and headed straight into town.
And here is a moving interview with Sandy, Jessica’s mom, and Jenna, one of Jessica’s sisters, describing the experience of riding out the storm in the cellar of the farmhouse. Despite heavy damage to the farm’s forested acres, the Baileys understand how lucky they were and make plain that others in town, facing having to rebuild smashed homes, were not so fortunate.
Jessica is a Farm Aid member who follows us closely online. Back in 2008, she and her family had a great time at our “home” concert in nearby Mansfield, Massachusetts. Jessica said she has known about the Farm Aid Hotline for a long time, but never seriously thought that her own family farm would ever have any reason to call in. Though we’re a national organization and we try to be of service to farms anywhere in the country, it is always gratifying to hear from a farm in our own backyard, so to speak. We try to do what good neighbors everywhere do when folks nearby are in trouble. As all of us brace for what certainly looks like increasingly ferocious weather disasters nationwide (severe drought, massive flooding, monster tornadoes and likely hurricanes), neighborly relations near and far will be sorely needed. Help us help by considering a donation to the Farm Aid Family Farm Disaster Fund.