Monday’s wind brings down barn at Mount Toby Farm

  • Mount Toby Farm in Sunderland. No cows were killed in a barn collapse Monday, though a few suffered scrapes to their backs. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Bob Williams, co-owner of Mount Toby Farm in Sunderland, was inside this barn when a windstorm collapsed the adjacent barn on Monday. No cows were killed in the collapse, though a few suffered scrapes to their backs. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Cows stand next to the collapsed barn at Mount Toby Farm in Sunderland on Thursday. No cows were killed in the collapse, though a few suffered scrapes to their backs. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Mount Toby Farm owner Bob Williams moves the fencing on a makeshift cow pen after the free stall barn, at left, collapsed after heavy winds on Monday in Sunderland. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • The free stall barn that collapsed after heavy winds on Monday at Mount Toby Farm in Sunderland. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • The collapsed barn at Mount Toby Farm in Sunderland. No cows were killed in the collapse, though a few suffered scrapes to their backs. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Mount Toby Farm owner Bob Williams stands next to the free stall barn that collapsed after heavy winds on Monday in Sunderland. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • The free stall barn that collapsed after heavy winds on Monday at Mount Toby Farm in Sunderland. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 2/28/2019 11:22:51 PM

SUNDERLAND — The co-owner of a dairy farm on North Main Street said the local agricultural community has rallied around him after a windstorm earlier in the week collapsed a barn that typically houses 96 cows on his property.

All cows at Mount Toby Farm survived, though some sustained scrapes to their backs. The barn normally houses most of the herd at the farm that has been in the Williams family for seven generations. The barn is just 7 years old, and while the structure’s builder arrived on Thursday to survey the damage, it is unclear what caused the collapse.

Because the milking parlor is housed in a separate building and because the farm has an alternate place on the farm to keep the milking cows, operations are continuing.

Bob Williams said he was in an adjacent barn around 4:30 p.m. Monday when he heard something outside.

“Really, it didn’t make a lot of noise. There was a lot of creaking,” he said Thursday at 225 North Main St., adding that he soon after heard a slight crash. He summed up his discovery with some sarcasm. “So I had thought that just some roofing blew off and then, of course, I came out the door and it was a little bit worse than that.

“It was down, and it was just disbelief,” he added. “I mean, it was, surprisingly, not very loud. I think it went down kind of slow.”

The barn’s roof collapsed straight down, and is now held up by the metal cow stalls inside. It resembles a squat version of its former self. There is no milking parlor in the barn.

Williams, who runs the farm with his wife, Barbara, said about 20 cows were inside the 60-by-168-foot barn when it collapsed. He said the trapped cows were freed within a couple of hours.

Williams said his cousin Darryl Williams, who co-owns Luther Belden Farm in Hatfield, temporarily took in about 15 cows to try to alleviate the strain suddenly felt at Mount Toby Farm. Bob Williams said those 15 cows are his “dry” ones, meaning they are not currently lactating. He also said his nephew arranged for a tractor-trailer to transport roughly 40 cows to Bar-Way Farm (owned by the Melnick family) in Deerfield and Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley.

Williams said he is grateful other farmers could take some of his cows and he has not yet thought about what will happen with the milk or any loss of revenue. He said he would not mind if the other farmers kept the milk that is produced because of the favor they are doing for him. Dairy cows are milked about twice a day.

Darryl Williams said his cousin called him after the collapse, and he was more than willing to help.

“We’re first cousins, we’re family, and we’re just helping each other out. That’s all,” he said. “When something like this happens, the farm community kind of gets together.”

Bob Williams said his fellow farmers have been incredibly kind.

“The next day, offers were coming in (to transport cows),” he said. “And I, of course, if it happened on somebody else’s farm, would be right there, too. We’ve got to help each other, it’s a tough business.”

The cows remaining on the Mount Toby Farm property appeared happy and healthy Thursday, though Williams said many seemed initially traumatized.

“One of them was terribly panicky,” he said. “They didn’t lie down for a long time. … (Cows) lie down a lot. They make the best milk while they’re lying down.”

Williams said representatives from Farm Family Insurance in South Deerfield were expected to stop by today to assess the damage.

He said he is the seventh generation to run the Mount Toby Farm, which his family started in 1775. He said the business once grew specialty cigar tobacco, but his grandfather, Walter Williams, switched to dairy operations in 1948.

Reach DomenicPoli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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