600 chickens dead, family farm looks to rebuild

Posted at 10:00 PM, Jan 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-15 22:28:52-05

WAYLAND, Mich. – With 600 chickens dead and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, a family farm is struggling to recover from a massive barn fire.

It happened Monday morning at Rakowski Family Farm in the 100 block of 131st Avenue in Wayland.

The farm has served West Michigan for more than 20 years. The owner, Patrick Rakowski, said the farm has supplied eggs, hogs, and lamb to the Grand Rapids area as well.

“We supply lots of local restaurants in the Eastown area and all three Harvest Food stores with eggs,” said Rakowski.

They even helped the Fulton Street Market get started nine years ago. Now, they’re looking for ways to get a new start of their own after the fire burned thousands of dollars worth of tools collected over 21 years. Rakowski believes the fire started after an industrial heater block from a bobcat malfunctioned. The farm held more than 2500 chickens in the same barn, a confined space causing more than just a little discomfort.

“They’ll literally kill each other, they’ve been taking four to five dead ones a day,” said Rakowski. “But we don’t have another place to put them until we get the barns built.”

Rakowski said despite the fire, it’s business as usual. He and his family are now forced to pay for the expenses out of pocket.

“We didn’t have a dime of insurance, everything is out of pocket,” said Rakowski.

A Gofundme page is up to help the farm during this hardship. Rakowski anticipates being up and running in two weeks, hoping to rebuild within that time frame.
“The building, we got new stuff coming,” said Rakowski. “We’re gonna start digging concrete up tomorrow, pour concrete Monday, hoping to get materials rushed here by next week.”

He said one fire won’t stop a business and serving West Michigan homes and businesses. He hopes the community will continue to buy and eat local. Now, he’s asking for any donations to help cover the costs.

“People go to make and meet the people that grew the meat, and that’s getting more and more important every year because everyone wants to know who grew the food and where it came from,” said Rakowski.