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Community rallies to support vegetable farmers after devastating fire

They're already rebuilding after a fire torched their only greenhouse.

Vegetable farmers in southeast Minnesota are hurrying to rebuild their only greenhouse after a fire destroyed it before the sun came up Monday, March 11. 

Heartbeet Farm in Zumbro Falls, a staple provider at the Rochester Farmer's Market, was severely damaged by a fire that was caused by sparks from a wood stove. The fire torched their only greenhouse, destroying more than 65,000 onion and shallot seeds they planted in preparation for the growing season. 

"This loss is a massive setback for us as it was a key piece of our infrastructure as a working farm and it is extremely timely that it be re-built asap as it is seed starting time," Heartbeet Farms co-owner Rebecca Wright Schwen wrote in an online fundraiser

"Unforeseen accidents are never part of a small farm’s financial plan for the year. This setback comes at a time of year when farm income is at it's lowest and equals a major loss of time as we try to get rolling for the season."

The charred remains inside the greenhouse. 

The charred remains inside the greenhouse. 

Fortunately, the community has stepped up in a big way, donating more than $17,000 to a GoFundMe for Heartbeet Farm, which is more than double the $8,000 the family farmers were hoping to raise in order to rebuild and get back on their feet as fast as possible. 

The donations will help them replace a laundry list of needs, including a new furnace/boiler, north wall of the greenhouse, electrical needs, thermostats, fans, heat mats, germination, plant trays, potting soil, hoses and replacement seeds for the thousands that were destroyed. 

Doubling the fundraising goal is beyond the farmers' wildest expectations, noting that "our jaws dropped to the floor." 

Amazingly, just three full days after the fire, despite many small jobs and debris cleanup yet to do, they've already replaced the plastic covering, a wood boiler is set up outside the greenhouse and replacement seeds have been ordered. 

"We will recover from this minor catastrophe and we feel stronger than ever with the vocal support of our community surrounding us," Wright Schwen wrote in an update Wednesday. 

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