Donations totaling around $34,000 have allowed the Fortin Farm to replace some of the cows killed by a lightning strike last month. Credit: Courtesy of John Fortin

Not long after a freak accident  killed eight cows on the Fortin Family Farm last month, a little girl showed up with a $5 donation. She told the family she knew it was not enough to buy a cow, but hoped it would help. She was not the only one who wanted to help.

Three weeks ago John Fortin was hauling away the carcasses of eight cows killed by a single lightning strike and wondering if his family’s beef farm could survive the loss. Today the farm’s future looks much brighter after more than $34,000 in donations poured in within days of the tragedy.

The cows were killed when a large pine tree they had taken refuge under during a storm was struck by lightning. Those eight angus heifers represented 10 percent of the Fortin Farm’s herd and was a huge economic and emotional blow to the four-generation farm.

The livestock were insured for liability, but not for death.

Within a day of the tragedy, John Fortin set up an online donation site that blew past its $15,000 goal — the value of the lost cows — in the first 24 hours.

“I decided after two days to shut it down after it reached $22,000 so people wouldn’t think we were being greedy,” Fortin said on Tuesday. “But afterwards cash and checks kept comin’ to us for another $12,000.”

This past weekend Fortin and his family used a chunk of that cash to purchase four cows to start replacing those that were killed.

“We made a trip down to a farm in Cumblerand last weekend where a guy raises cows just like us — grass fed and the same breed,” Fortin said. “He was looking to get out of the calf-cow businesses so he had bred cows and heifers and we picked up four from him.”

Fortin said there are plans to use the rest of the donated funds to get more cows and add corral fencing and pens near the farm’s barn.

For now, he is nearly speechless at the kindness from so many people.

“People just felt compelled to donate,” he said. “A lot of them wrote us letters that said they used to be farmers or someone in their family had been a farmer and they had seen the struggles and wanted to give us a hand.”

The donations ranged from $5 to $1,000 and Fortin said the family was particularly struck by that small cash donation from a young girl.

“My mom told her it would sure help,” Fortin said. “I can’t believe the community and how great everyone has been and we were really surprised how everyone has gotten behind us and really wanted to lift us up.”

Fortin struggles to find the right words to describe the emotions the acts of kindness created and hopes the people who donated understand how much it means to his family.

“The farm means more than anything to us and now we can definitely keep it going,” Fortin said. “We appreciate every kindness shown to us.”

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.