Photo courtesy of Okanogan County Fire District 6 An early morning fire on March 10 destroyed a barn, house, vehicles and other equipment at an organic farm near Carlton operated by Annie Utigard.
GoFundMe campaign set up to help the owner
A devastating fire in the early hours of Thursday morning (March 10) destroyed the barn, house, several vehicles and a tractor at The King’s Garden, the organic farm run by Annie Utigard near Carlton.
Not only did the fire destroy Utigard’s home, it also wiped out all the seeds she was about to start sprouting for this year’s harvest – thousands and thousands, she said. declared.
The barn was everything – Utigard’s kitchen, pantry, living quarters and sprouting area on his farm, said Utigard’s friend Maria Hines. Hines, a chef who has been cooking with Utigard products for two decades, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Utigard. She also coordinates volunteer efforts and donations.
Utigard lived in part of the barn and woke up around 3 a.m. to see the fire in the breezeway, not far from propane tanks and a pile of wood. She tried unsuccessfully to put it out with a fire extinguisher. Because she couldn’t get a phone signal, Utigard had to drive a mile south to Carlton to call 911.
Firefighters and engines from Carlton, Twisp and Winthrop — about 15 firefighters in total — responded to the blaze, Okanogan County 6 Fire District Chief Cody Acord said. Carlton firefighters were first on the scene, but the barn was already fully involved and all they could do was protect other infrastructure, he said.
Utigard and a farmhand, Araxie, who lived in a trailer on the property, escaped unscathed. A goat and her three babies and another pregnant goat perished in the fire, but the rest of the herd – goats, sheep and lambs – all survived.
Utigard fears that her cat, who has always slept with her, died in the fire, but Araxie’s cat appeared after five days. “My cat will be in heaven when I get there,” Utigard said.
Three kids born prematurely the night of the fire were found in the snow. Friends and neighbors helped keep them warm and feed them overnight, but they are all fine now, bonded to their mothers and breastfeeding and on their own, Utigard said. “The next morning mum took them out and they are doing great,” she said.
The fire also demolished Utigard’s delivery truck. She tried to move her new tractor, but it was already so hot from the fire that the steering wheel burned her hands. “I just gave it up,” she said.
“Anyone who knows Annie knows she would give you the shirt she has on her back. She is the most generous, loving and hardworking person I know,” Hines said in the GoFundMe campaign. By Tuesday afternoon, they had raised more than $35,000 of the $150,000 goal, from 342 donors.
On Monday, just days after the fire, there had been definite progress, Hines said. Utigard now lives in a trailer on his property, and they are working on installing solar power and plumbing. Although not driveable, the trailer has windows and doors as well as a propane stove and heater. “It’s quite comfortable right now. I can eat and sleep and take care of the basics,” Utigard said.
Utigard is ordering seeds again this week so that it can start its spring sowing. Among the urgent tasks is the construction of a new germination space for the seedlings, Hines said. Utigard also plans to replace the canning and cheese-making kitchen it had nearly completed and build a new cold room. “The good news is we’re going to start over and do it right – and better,” Utigard said.
Hines organizes the many offers of help so that generosity does not become a management task in itself. They don’t need toothbrushes anymore — they have 20 — and perishable food is of no use, because Utigard still doesn’t have the power to run the donated refrigerator.
Utigard needs gardening equipment and tools, and they will be looking for volunteers for the working groups. Hines coordinates the details so they don’t get things they can’t use.
produce for many
Utigard is well known in the valley and beyond. She began farming in the Methow and selling at the Twisp Farmers’ Market in 1992. She farmed elsewhere in the county for a time but returned to the Valley in 2008.
At King’s Garden, Utigard grows 80 to 100 types of tomatoes, 30 varieties of squash, as well as peppers, melons, beans, corn, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, kale and Swiss chard. It specializes in heirloom vegetables and fruits. She sells at the Twisp Farmer’s Market and supplies stores and restaurants in the Methow Valley and Seattle.
Hines and Utigard have been friends for 20 years. Hines, who ran the award-winning restaurant Tilth in Seattle, got to know Utigard when she bought produce from him each week at the Ballard Farmer’s Market. “Everything was organic and beautiful – tomatoes, squash, beans and herbs,” Hines said.
As its reputation grew, the list of restaurants provided by Utigard in Seattle grew to about 80. Utigard donated leftover produce to a friend who distributed it to homeless people.
Hines, who is an avid climber and co-author of a book on nutrition for mountain athletes, moved to Mazama in the fall and enjoyed being closer to her friend. Now she helps Utigard with practical matters, including caring for sheep and goats.
Utigard waits for the insurance investigator so she can begin the cleaning process. The barn, personal property and some vehicles were insured. “I thank the community for the love and support – it’s absolutely amazing,” Utigard said.
The cause of the fire is undetermined, according to the fire station.