Fire Destroys Fifth-Generation Family Dairy Farm In Waterbury

Apr 2, 2018

The Wallace Farm, which has been in the same family for more than 150 years, was destroyed by a fire Sunday.

Waterbury-based journalist and author David Goodman went to the farm on Sunday as crews from many surrounding towns attempted to get the fire under control. He told VPR it was "a heroic, but futile effort."

“Tanker trucks from every town in central Vermont was hauling water from the Waterbury Reservoir and other places as fast as they could in an effort to contain it," Goodman added, "but it all went up very fast.” 

David Goodman spoke to VPR’s Henry Epp. Listen to their conversation above, and find Goodman's 2008 profile of the Wallace Farm here.

Goodman said farm owner Rosina Wallace, her brother Kay and their dog escaped the blaze, but the entire herd – about 20 cows – was trapped in the barn and died.

Besides its longevity, the Wallace Farm was known for its outreach to youth and its connection to politics. Goodman said Rosina’s father, Keith Wallace, served as a state representative, as a state senator and, for more than two decades, as president of the Vermont Farm Bureau.

And for years, Rosina Wallace hosted school groups and youth organizations at the farm.

“She called it 'Camp Ag,' and it was really her belief that kids need to be connected to the earth," Goodman said. "And it was also her pride in what she did, both as a farmer, as a woman, for them to see a different way of life that once was common.” 

Goodman said there used to be "hundreds of dairy farms in Waterbury" — now, after the fire at the Wallace Farm, just two remain.

“So she [Rosina Wallace] is a link to, you know, a working world, an agricultural world in Vermont that has increasingly been under tremendous pressure and sadly is vanishing in many communities,” Goodman said.

As for what’s next for Wallace Farm, Goodman said it's unclear.

“When I talked to Rosina last night, she was just staring with her brother and some neighbors numbly at what remained of this 150-year-old farm, and she said to me, ‘I keep thinking I need to go milk my cows. For my whole life, I have been milking my cows twice a day.’ And she just shook her head and fell silent," Goodman said. "So, I think it's a little too early to say what the future holds.”

A fund set up to assist Rosina Wallace and her farm has quickly raised thousands of dollars.