By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Twitter: @DinwiddieMonitr
Posted: June 6, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – Following a strong thunderstorm last week, western Dinwiddie’s Richlands Dairy Farm sustained significant damage on their property, just days after the farm hosted the governor and celebrated the progress being made on their ongoing expansion.
“On Wednesday evening, around 7 p.m., either sheer-force winds or a tornado, caused serious damage on the farm,” Coley Jones Drinkwater, co-owner Richlands Dairy Farm said shortly after the storm moved through.
Following last week’s series of storms, no tornadoes were reported by National Weather Service officials out of Wakefield but, between last Wednesday through Friday, the weather service office issued a number of severe thunderstorm warnings for storms that had the possibility of producing locally damaging winds in the area.
“It completely demolished the pack barn,” Drinkwater detailed. “It picked it up out of the concrete and moved it over about 40 feet. It is the big white barn that houses our high -herd cows. It is a complete loss. Thankfully though, The cows, about 120 of them, are fine. Miraculously, none of the cows were killed. One of them had a few scrapes and scratches, but will be okay.”
Powerful winds during a severe thunderstorm completely upended a barn on Richlands Dairy Farm in the western side of Dinwiddie County last week. (Richlands Dairy)
According to Drinkwater, the pack barn was roughly a decade old and the last payment on the building’s mortgage to pay off the structure was made last month, with insurance informing the farm’s operators they will only cover a small fraction of what is needed to start a new barn.
In addition to the complete destruction of the pack barn, the severe thunderstorm also took the tin roofing off of the calves’ barn and the low-herd barn. Drinkwater said the community’s support during this difficult time is appreciated.
“I would just ask that people continue to purchase our products,” Drinkwater remarked. “Perhaps if people don’t see our dairy products in the stores where they shop or the restaurants where they dine, they could request that those businesses use Richlands Dairy products. Also, when we finally get to open our Richlands Creamery that we have been working on for so long, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we would so much appreciate people coming out and trying our fresh milk and ice cream. They will not be disappointed.”
Dairy farming is a labor-intensive process but the owners of Richlands Dairy say they are blessed to be able to do the work. Drinkwater’s grandparents established the farm in the 1950s and the fruits of their labor have allowed it to grow to where it is currently, with over 200 cows on any given day – 500 if you count the calves.
Only days earlier, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the state’s secretary of agriculture visited the farm as part of the Commonwealth’s kickoff of Virginia Agriculture Week, the state’s largest industry, a fact shared by Dinwiddie Economic Development Director Morgan Ingram after hearing news of the damage at Richlands Dairy.
Coley Jones Drinkwater (middle, in blue) breaks ground on Richlands Dairy’s new creamery during a special event last year attended by local and state leaders as the farm is seen as an example of the growing agri-tourism industry in Virginia. (Michael Campbell)
“The storm that impacted Richlands Dairy Farm is very unfortunate, especially with the anticipated opening of the creamery in the very near future,” she remarked. “Richlands Dairy, like many farms across the Commonwealth, has embraced technology, diversified into and agri-tourism operation, and has now taken the leap into being a value-added processor with their new creamery. Since the extensive damage caused by the storm, it has been tremendous to see the outpouring of support for this family that has been shown from fellow farmers, and the community as a whole. This incident is just one more hurdle that this family business will tackle head-on.
Ingram continued, “This local business in our community will need our continued business and support, particularly after the opening of their new creamery, hopefully within the next week or two.”
Richlands Dairy Farm is located at 116 Cox Road in the community of Blackstone. The new Richlands Creamery, which is expected to open in the next couple of weeks, will be located at 460 Cox Road, also in Blackstone. You can learn more about Richlands Dairy Farm online at http://richlandsdairyfarm.com.