Community rallying for Dartmouth farmers following fire

Jan 14, 2019

After a devastating fire at a family-run Horseneck Road farm, farmers Sarah Cogswell and Kate Levin are determined to rebuild as the community steps in to help.

The fire tore through a barn at the Cluck and Trowel farm at 777 Horseneck Road early in the morning on Jan. 12, reducing the building to a pile of ash in a matter of hours. More than 200 laying hens housed inside the barn were lost, along with tools, tractors, and other valuable supplies.

“I came downstairs at 5:30 in the morning to prepare for the market, and saw this glow through the sliders, and just freaked out,” said Cogswell, who operates the farm with her wife Kate Levin and son Massimo Vliet. “The black plume was intense already.”

Within minutes, she knew the barn would be a total loss. By 7 a.m., Dartmouth Fire District No. 2 had called in support from other Dartmouth fire districts and as far away as Freetown. The fire was knocked down and crews cleared the scene by 10 a.m., revealing the true extent of the damage.

“By the time they dropped water on it, it was engulfed.” Cogswell said.

When the smoke settled, however, the damage was obvious. In addition to the entire 2019 laying flock, meat stored in the barn was lost, along with farm equipment, feed, and other necessities.

The fire came at a particularly tough time because Cogswell and Levin planned to expand the farm operation to include a farm stand this year. They rent the property, and had been working with the landowner to make it happen.

“This farm stand we just built, we were really going to start making it the face for the public,” Cogswell said. “When we started we haven’t been as public, just selling at markets.”

Out of the ashes, however, has come a quick and swift response from the agricultural community from Dartmouth to the State House.

On Sunday, Susan Murray at Apponagansett Farm helped launch a GoFundMe page to help the farm recover. In just 17 hours, nearly $10,000 had been raised towards a $20,000 goal.

A day later, local and state agricultural officials met at the farm to find out what they can do to help, including State Rep. Chris Markey (D-Dartmouth), state Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux, area farmers, and representatives from the Dartmouth Grange and the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership.

“We want to do what we can to help them get on their feet,” said Sam Manley of the Dartmouth Grange and farmer at Alderbrook Farm. He said the Grange will plan a fundraiser for February to help.

Markey said he could offer help, and Lebeaux offered his office’s support to find out if they could be eligible for any assistance programs.

Cogswell began the farm four years ago at a property next door which is just over the border in Westport.

“We have a very particular soy free certified organic product. That’s how we’ve differentiated ourselves,” Cogswell said.

To help the farm recover, visit the GoFundMe page, or sign up for the farm’s newsletter, which will include details about any fundraisers or other ways to help. The farm can be contacted by emailing