Ruins and silage still smoldered at Dylan and Lauren Hapeman’s High Ridge Dairy Farm on Timmerman Road in Little Falls, NY, days after the blaze was put out.
Dylan discovered the fire, which had already engulfed the barn, when he returned home at 9:30 p.m. on the evening of Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.
“We still can’t wrap our head around the loss and are completely devastated,” said Dylan. “We lost all our cows — and they’re not just cows to us, they’re our babies and our family.”
Losses from the disaster include a round bale wrapper — which was new in spring of 2017, a crop sprayer, hay elevators, and a manure spreader.
“Our milking equipment and bulk tank are lost — and we also lost thousands in tools; wrenches, sockets, air compressor, etc., all our breeding and milk records, all medicines for the cows, a silo with 350 tons of corn silage, calf jackets, winter coats, hats, gloves, our two dogs and our barn cats.”
Twenty-one year old Hapeman, a Little Falls native and former member of the “Little Falls 4-H Friends”, showed dairy cows at the Cooperstown Junior Livestock Show and the Herkimer County Fair.
He and his wife Lauren (Ward) were high-school sweethearts before marrying and purchasing the family farm from Dylan’s aunt and uncle.
“She’s not from a farming background,” Dylan says of Lauren, “But she grew to love it from being with me.”
Dylan says his childhood revolved around the farm.
“I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Whether it was doing chores, making hay, or showing cattle I was there. There’s no better life than life on the farm. Lauren and I bought the farm because we loved the animals and the land. My favorite thing in the world is waking up in the morning with my beautiful wife and spending time doing chores and milking. Spending that time together bonding and talking about how to continue to better our dairy.”
As of Jan. 7, the source of the fire was still deemed unidentifiable and the young dairy couple was still waiting on the insurance company for “some things.”
“We were given the go ahead to clean up,” reported Dylan. “We are looking to find a mini excavator and tracked skidsteer with a grapple bucket to help assist with clean up, but haven’t had luck finding any yet.”
Dylan says it is difficult, as he has to pay out of his pocket for any equipment until the insurance company comes through with funds.
“We plan to start clean up and have full intentions on rebuilding.”
A “Go Fund Me” page (www.gofundme.com/dylans-barn-fire) has been set up online by Suzanne Clothier to benefit High Ridge Dairy Farm.
“Dylan Hapeman has been focused on farming his entire life, and represents the future of the Mohawk Valley’s farming community,” said Clothier. “A Go Fund Me page has been set up to accept donations for Dylan and Lauren as they rebuild their barn, herd and their dreams.”
Clothier says she and her husband have watched and admired Dylan throughout his school years, and that Dylan always wanted to farm.
“His love of the land and his animal friends has been a focus for all he does. He has steadily pursued his dream of farming, pouring himself into this hard work and life. Whether out on the tractor or caring for his cows, Dylan is what the future needs: dedicated, intelligent, thoughtful, kind and compassionate farmers.”
Dylan and Lauren said they would like to thank all the first responders, and their friends and family for all of their help and support.
“It’s not just our job, it’s our life and what we love to do,” Dylan said.