"I've never seen one at all, especially around here," says Melissa Miller of the tornado that tore through one of the fields at Miller Farms on June 7. "We were out working in the fields; it was a totally normal day. My dad was doing tractor work right behind where it touched down, my brother-in-law was out there, my sister was harvesting asparagus. Then we saw a dust devil, looked up and saw the tornado touching down."
Melissa and her siblings are the third generation to work the Platteville farm that was purchased by her grandparents, Roy and Dorothy Miller, in 1949. It's now owned by her parents, Joe and Chris Miller, and the whole family pitches in, planting and harvesting, running events like the popular fall festival and wagon sale, and selling produce every week at a long list of local farmers' markets.
The tornado sent two semis that the farm uses to transport produce to those markets flying and threw a 16,000-pound grain trailer clear into a field belonging to a nearby farm. And as the result of a severe hailstorm that followed the tornado — "it's like the weather was saying 'Ha ha, take that,'" Melissa observes — the farm lost half of a sixty-acre field filled with sugar snap peas, beets, carrots and garlic, much of the early season produce that the family would typically sell this time of year.
"We'll replant," Melissa says, "and it didn't destroy all of it. We'll be back out at the farmers' markets this weekend." Still, the family estimates the farm suffered at least $40,000 in material loss, not accounting for the labor it will take to clean up and replant. But since everyone was out working when the tornado struck, the fact that no one was hurt is a bright spot at a dark time.
And following the storm, outreach from the community was immediate. "We've never asked for help before; we're so used to taking care of everything on our own," Melissa says. "But everyone kept asking us to set up a GoFundMe. The amount of support we have is just awesome."
The starting goal for the fundraiser was set at $10,000, and as of early June 9, that amount had almost been reached. But that was before the family had a full assessment of the damage. Now that the Millers have a better idea of what they're facing, Melissa expects to increase the goal — but only because so many people have been reaching out to help. Along with financial donations, community members have been sending snacks and water to the family, and some have even showed up to help clear the debris.
Melissa is encouraging people to visit the Miller Farms stands at farmers' markets this weekend, and to consider getting home delivery through the Farm to Doorstep delivery service that includes no delivery fees — you only pay for the produce and any other add-ons like eggs, honey, fresh bread, tortillas, farm-raised meat and more.
"We love you all," the family says on the Miller Farms GoFundMe page, and as the outpouring of support from the community shows, the feeling is mutual.
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