Area residents will have the chance this weekend to help a local farmer rebuild her barn.
Debbie Love began raising pigs on her farm in Kasilof about eight years ago, and has since expanded to include geese, chickens and a cows since then. That growth and success were brought to a direct and devastating halt when Love’s barn burned down at the end of August while she was in Anchorage for a doctor’s appointment.
The 20-by-30 foot barn was already past saving by the time a neighbor saw and went to investigate, Love said. Firefighters who responded found the same.
Central Emergency Service’s Terry Bookey was the captain on duty that day.
“The whole thing was pretty much down on the ground when we got there,” he recalled. “All the animals were dead by the time we arrived.”
Besides losing all her pigs, Love lost the barn that housed her cow and its calf. With winter coming, two women have come together to organize a silent auction and dinner fundraiser to pull together the money to build Love a new barn. Candy Kohniak-West and Deanna Whitcomb have spent time putting together the event which will open at 11 a.m. this Saturday at the Elks Lodge in Kenai.
“That was really nice of (them),” Love said of the fundraiser. “It gets me teary just thinking about it.”
Love’s first step into the world of livestock was buying a large pig after hearing from her nephew how helpful it was to have that assurance of food throughout the winter. Being on disability, Love said she thought it a was good idea to save up and invest in her own animals. She hasn’t had to buy meat in the last eight years, she said.
“This pig was bigger than my car,” she joked.
That first pig grew to 27 just before the fire this year, and a series of other events led her to take up raising chickens and geese as well. Love bought her cow and its calf with her dividend last year,
“She’s got a calf already,” Love said of the cow. “And she does not have a shelter an it worries be because she is pregnant.”
While the chickens have a place to get go when they get cold, the barn that was destroyed was the only place for the cow to get out of the elements. Love’s ultimate goal is get some kind of replacement before it gets too far into the winter season, she said.
For Kohniak-West, her friend’s tragedy hit home, as she herself was involved in a gas explosion as a teenager.
“It just hit me hard knowing that — I know what it’s like,” she said.
Whitcomb has organized silent auctions in the past and said she was happy to lend a hand for Love. The auction will have about 50 items, including fire wood, hand-made jewelry, a vanity and more. It will close at 2 p.m.
“It took us about a month and a half to find a building and once we got the building everything jut fell … right into place,” Whitcomb said.
The event costs $10 at the door, with the pulled pork dinner being donated by Pitt BBQ.
Whitcomb and Kohniak-West said they hope for a good turnout, and that their goal is to raise enough for a barn the size of Love’s old one, or one that’s slightly larger.
Megan Pacer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.