Volume No. 16 Issue No. 5 May 2019  

  People on the plains
  Ahavah farm rebuilding — again

     The farm is named Ahavah – Hebrew for love. But it hasn't gotten much love from Mother Nature.
   In 2016, Ahavah Farm in eastern El Paso County was ravaged by a devastating hail storm. Now it is trying to come back from another, a worse disaster –- the March 13 bomb cyclone.
   "It was like nothing anybody's ever seen," said Yosef Camire, who runs the family farm with his wife, Havah. (The couple has five children, including son Asher, who was profiled in “The New Falcon Herald” for his blacksmithing skills.)
   They knew when the storm hit that it was bad; they had to brave the whiteout conditions to check on and rescue animals, including 450 chickens, a horse and three alpacas. ("We had to dig them out," Camire said of the alpacas. "They were buried up to their necks.") But the extent of the damage wasn't immediately clear.
   "We didn't realize until the next morning," Camire said. … We didn’t have a single piece of infrastructure on this farm that wasn't damaged severely.”
   Five greenhouses were gone, shredded by the wind or crushed by the snow; those that were left had significant damage. All of their plant starts were lost. Camire puts the damage at $250,000, a figure that doesn't include the endless man hours put in by them and their staff — they have four full-time employees — to clean up and start rebuilding. They, at least, will recoup $72,000 of that cost from insurance, and have also received $30,000 in donations from a community eager to see them rebuild. But the loss is still tremendous.
   Camire considers himself a positive guy, but the five years on the farm have tested that spirit.
   "It's a hard place to grow out here. … We've gone through the worst-case scenario for five years — the worst drought, the worst hail, the worst wind, the worst whatever. … I'm a religious person and I do have a lot of faith that things will work out, but it's hard. It's a lot of work."
   The family didn't have a farm in mind when they moved from Denver to the Peyton area in 2014. But plans for a garden plot soon grew into something much more — a "no-tractor, no-till, no-chemicals" community farm aimed at growing, as the website proclaims, "the purest, most nutrient dense and most environmentally responsible food you can find."
   The farm grows tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, turnips, kale, lettuce, beets, herbs and more –- "you name it, we grow it," Camire said. The farm produce is sold through Community Supported Agriculture shares; there are 300 CSA members. The idea is that the members, who pay at the start of the season, share in both the bounty and the risk. Any surplus is sold at farmers markets or elsewhere, but for now the farm is CSA-only.
   "The CSA, in good times, you get tons of food, and in bad times; unfortunately, you get less," Camire said. With the devastation from the last storm, “The hardest part for me is knowing that I don’t have the food for the CSA members, and seeing them every week with a small share. That really hurts. We were so prepared for an awesome season."
    At least one member asked for a refund, "And a couple of people were like, ‘how are you going to fulfill your obligation?'" Camire said. But most members are understanding, he said; it helps when they visit the farm and see the devastation firsthand.
   "I think a lot of people just don't understand what happened. … They don't realize that we got destroyed."
   Camire is grateful for the volunteers who have helped with cleanup; the first weekend drew more than 100 people. The need for help is far from over, though; rebuilding will continue for months.
   Want to help? Don't worry if you don’t have any building skills. "It's not just the construction," Camire said. "People can volunteer to weed or volunteer to farm while other people are doing construction. Any kind of help, we would love."
   That positive spirit is back as Camire reflected on all the help they have already received.
   "It's just a phenomenal community. We're really blessed."
   To learn more about Ahavah Farm and ways to help, go to http://havahfarm.com or look for the Facebook page. For information on the Ahavah Community Initiative, which has a mission of connecting underserved people to locally farmed produce, go to https://ahavahfarm.com/aci.
Yosef Camire shows some of the damage done to Ahavah Farm by the March blizzard. Photo by Bill Radford
Evidence of the damage done to Ahavah Farm by the March bomb cyclone can be seen in the distance.
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