GOULDSBORO, Maine — Something new is about to sprout up from the ground at Darthia Farm, where organic farmers Bill and Cynthia Thayer have been growing food and animals on the edge of Gouldsboro Bay since 1976.
It’s a new, timber-framed barn. The prior one, which was built in 1859, burned to the ground this past May, killing dozens of animals inside. Lost in the blaze were 18 sheep, 60 chicks, three draft horses, two calves, two pigs and some 400 bales of hay.
The timbers arrived Monday and, according to the Thayers, should be erected by the beginning of next week. It will be several more weeks before the new barn is complete enough for it to be put to use, the couple said Tuesday.
A new 48-by-36-foot concrete slab for the barn was poured in the weeks after the fire, almost in the same footprint of the old barn. The new barn’s location, a few feet farther away from the Thayers’ home, is intended to help improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the property, Bill Thayer said.
A new shed for dyeing wool, to replace one that was attached to the old barn, has been built a few feet away from where the barn will go up this week.
The couple has been able to rebuild and to acquire some new animals because of money and other donations they have received from supporters. People donated nearly $100,000 to the couple in the months after the fire.
The money enabled the Thayers to acquire new Haflinger draft horses, which Bill Thayer purchased in Kentucky and brought to Gouldsboro in June.
The three horses that died in the fire — one of which they had owned for nearly 30 years — had been trained to haul logs, manure spreading equipment and hay rakes, Bill Thayer said. The new horses, Archie and Andy, will perform the same tasks.
“They’re turning out to be excellent so far,” he said.
Ellsworth Feed & Seed gave them new chickens, piglets and feed; Johnny’s Selected Seeds donated new tools; and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association donated lumber milled from trees grown on MOFGA’s organic woodlot. The Thayers are longtime members of MOFGA.
The Thayers still have three cows that survived the blaze and have been told to expect a gift of half a dozen sheep this fall. Residents Dale Church and Genio Bertin have donated time and equipment to the couple’s reconstruction efforts and Edith Dixon, a philanthropist and seasonal Winter Harbor resident, gave them $10,000, according to the Thayers.
Cynthia Thayer said the support she and her family have received in the wake of the fire has been doubly rewarding. They’ve raised enough money to largely replace the physical things they lost in the blaze, she said, and have gotten significant emotional support from the community and from throughout Maine.
“There’s been a lot of that kind of thing,” she said. “That makes a big difference.”
People who would like to volunteer to put siding on the new barn and help with other construction-related tasks can contact the Thayers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the farm can be found at www.darthiafarm.com.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.