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Fire in the Prop House

Posted 4/8/2013 10:19am by Jacob and Katie Mullane-Bach.

A fire on the evening of April 2nd destroyed most of the propagation hoophouse where we germinate and tend to the plant seedlings. We’ve used a propane heater for the past four years now to create a mini-greenhouse effect inside a smaller hooped structure within the prop house, and its set up is pretty safe. We’re perplexed about how the actual fire began, which is the only part of this experience that super frustrates us.  Anyhow, start it did, and along next to that fire was a newly filled 100 lb propane tank. The explosion was heard for miles around and the neighbors windows rattled when the boom resounded. The househoop adjacent to the prop house also caught fire and the seedlings we had ready to plant in the hoophouses for early season sales at the farmers market were toasted as well.  All in all though, the only crops that are really going to be affected for the CSA are the shallots and leeks. About 60% of those seedlings were lost. Everything else can be reseeded. It might turn out to be a blessing in disguise if this cool spring brings late frost and restarting the seeds mean they end up being planted in the fields a week or two later than originally planned. MSU connected us with some local organic growers with extra starts that we purchase replacement plants from. All and all the fire could have been much worse (they always can it seems), and we’re just relieved that no one was hurt. It’s been almost a week since the fire, and thanks to work shares, friends and intern, Leah, all the plants have been reseeded, the immediately important aspects of the prop house rebuilt and most farm tasks are back on schedule. 

This has been an unexpected, large financial hit, in the tens of thousands, and thankfully the insurance agent has been sympathetic. We should receive funds to cover the actual hoop structures themselves, but the electrical damage, irrigation damage, compost tea aerator, germination chamber, propagation benches, propane tanks and heater, thousands of seedlings, and miscellaneous tools were not covered. 

If you feel like you’d like to help in some way, simply sending in your share money would be extremely helpful in relieving some of these sudden, unanticipated costs.   Also, you could help spread the word about the CSA.










Top left: Seedlings for early farmer market sales before the fire. Top right: Flats of seeds reseeded the day after the fire. We used the walk-in cooler as a temporary germination chamber while the prop house was being repaired. Bottom left: Putting on plastic when it's windy is never a good idea, but the seeds in the temporary holding chamber had sprouted and we needed to get them into the tunnel that evening. Bottom right: Ahhh, the basics of the  prop house repaired aside from the electrical.