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When a community pulls together to help

Losing a home, or in this case a farm, to fire can be devastating. The Miller family of Ancramdale, who lost two of their Millerhurst Farm dairy barns and 46 of their dairy cows last October, can well attest to that. But the electrical fire sparked more than actual flames — it ignited a community determined to support one of its own. And that is exactly what’s been done, as the Miller family started rebuilding last week.

The farm, which has been in existence for nearly 250 years, was well known for its successful dairy operation. During that time it’s made countless connections with the community surrounding it, from residents to fellow farmers to FFA students to town leaders and business people. Everyone, it seems, knows the Millers. So when a GoFundMe page was started to raise $20,000 for the family, it came as little surprise that the final tally raised was actually $131,248.

“It’s very heartwarming,” said farm owner Mike Miller. 

We agree. The support follows on the heels of other fundraisers that were done for the Millers. There were donation jugs at Shapiro’s Coffee, The Pine Plains Platter and The Farmer’s Wife in Ancramdale (we’re sure we’re missing some). The Stissing House held a fundraiser, which sold out, with a silent auction and raffles. Live music thanked attendees for their presence and support. There was also a chicken barbecue at the Pine Plains Lions Club Pavilion, and a benefit T-shirt sale. A mealtrain.com for the Miller family was also set up as a GoFundMe page.

And then there were the memorials. Memorials were set up at Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School’s FFA barns, the town park’s gazebo in the center of the hamlet and at Millerhurst Farm itself. Children and adults alike left cards, drawings and flowers in memory of the cows who perished in the blaze.

On top of that, nearby farmers offered to house Millerhurst’s remaining bovines to let the Millers deal with reorganizing and restructuring. Since the fire, cows have been placed temporarily at Lo-Nan Farms and Ronnybrook Farm in Pine Plains, Shunpike Dairy and Stephen Van Tassell’s farm in Millbrook and with Patricia McCarthy in Pawling.

The outpouring of community support has been staggering. With the money raised — about $175,000 donated for a new barn — the Millers are now able to look toward a future bright with promise. 

Continuing with the altruistic spirit, many contractors and vendors have contributed their time and energy to rebuilding efforts. S & L Builders, Mike George Plumbing & Heating, Stanford Refrigeration, Ginocchio Electric, Inc. and Jacob Meiller have all given a hand to prepare for the barn raising. (We apologize if we’re leaving anyone out.)

That can-do attitude is a testament to the power of community — and to the fact that here, where  farmers live side by side with the rest of us, we haven’t lost sight of what’s important. For that, we should all be as grateful as the Millers clearly are. It’s what makes living in the Harlem Valley so special.