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McDowell Co. farmers uplifted by outpouring of help after strong winds cause severe damage

By Justin Berger

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    MCDOWELL COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — A McDowell County farm suffered nearly $2,000 in damages over the weekend following strong winds.

Lyric East and her husband, Noah, own Wild East Farm and while they were speaking at the Organic Growers School Spring Conference in Mars Hill on Sunday, two of their mobile chicken structures went airborne.

“We had just created four new mobile chicken structures,” East said. “(They) blew up and smashed into the tunnels. So the two chicken structures were completely destroyed and the tunnel was significantly damaged.”

The tunnel is a home for greens, kale, spinach and cilantro.

“It’s an unheated, hoop house structure that’s providing warmth and protection to our plants,” East said. “So, this is a season extension tool so that we’re growing longer into the winter and earlier in the spring time.”

With those types of vegetables, the margins are pretty thin according to Wild East Farm’s Vegetable Manager Zak Young.

“Losing an entire high tunnel or having to put extra labor into it cuts into those margins in a significant way,” Young said.

Young was the only person at the farm immediately after the damage and immediately began remediating.

However, the destruction hit at a time when cashflow hasn’t caught up to startup costs.

“This is always like a pinch point in the season for farmers, early in the spring time,” East said.

So they asked for help and created a GoFundMe.

“We were totally blown away that it was completely funded in six hours and then donations just kept coming in,” East said.

They had a goal of raising $1,950 and have been blown away with nearly $3,000 in donations in a 24-hour period.

“It feels really fulfilling and validating to do that work and then be able to see that community is doing that for us as well,” Young said.

East said the extra money will go to startup costs for the vegetable and pasture poultry enterprises as Wild East Farm moves into their second growing season.

East said several other farmers have also offered tools, supplies and labor as other forms of support.

“The sense of ease and comfort that has been brought through the response to the GoFundMe has been such a balm for like any stress or strife that this initially caused which is huge,” she said.

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