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Fire destroys barn on Spicy Lamb Farm in Peninsula

Owner hopes admission fees, donations help pay for rebuild

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: March 12, 2014 1:00 PM
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Peninsula -- A fire destroyed the Spicy Lamb Farm barn and corn crib March 4, but cleanup is almost completed and people have already donated more than $13,000 to help.

Owner Laura DeYoung said she would like to raise the $150,000 needed to rebuild the barn through admission fees to see the lambs and other farm animals during upcoming spring events. And those who cannot visit the farm can make donations online.

Spicy Lamb Farm has 11 acres on the north end of Akron-Peninsula Road, accessed off Boston Mills Road in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The Valley Fire District's Peninsula fire station noticed smoke in the area, and Boston Heights station responded first at 6:15 p.m. according to Valley Fire District Chief Charlie Riedel.

The barn was already on the ground when they reached the scene. Riedel said it was a total loss. Animals were kept in corrals adjacent to the barn and were able to get out.

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The 1900 renovated farmhouse had a cracked window and a couple of cars were damaged by the heat of the fire.

Riedel said he called Hudson and Richfield for tankers because the area has no water lines. The Boston Heights and Peninsula police along with Cuyahoga Valley National Park rangers responded as well.

The fire was cleared at 10:30 p.m., Riedel said.

"We don't think arson was involved and listed the cause of fire as undetermined," Riedel said.

The Peninsula police, who arrived first, released the three dogs from a kennel near the barn. One dog was slightly burned but treated by a veterinarian.

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"He's doing just fine now," said DeYoung, who was not home at the time of the fire.

Spicy Lamb farm is one of about a dozen farms in the Countryside Initiative, which allows farmers to enter a long-term lease on land in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

DeYoung secured a 60-year lease in August 2007. She raises Dorset sheep for meat and wool; horses, rabbits, chickens, ducks and Border collies.

"I've spent six and half years improving the barn," DeYoung said. "I put everything into this farm. If it wasn't for the firefighters, there wouldn't be anything left."

DeYoung said she estimates at least $150,000 to rebuild the barn. In addition to the buildings, all the equipment, inventory, blankets, tools, feed and veterinary and other livestock supplies were lost.

She met with an architect Mark Smith March 10 to draw up plans. Although the barn was not a historical structure, DeYoung said the main barn would be historically accurate for 1914 with functional wings. The CVNP has to approve the plan.

Tentatively, the farm could open March 15 if the debris is cleaned up and gravel put down, said DeYoung. If not, the farm would open March 22. Visitors would pay admission costs of $10 for adults and $5 for kids for spring Lambing Days.

Visitors can see new arrivals of lambs, chick, duckling and bunnies, DeYoung said. So far there are 12 lambs.

"We figure if we get 10,000 families out to visit between now and Easter, we can raise the money," DeYoung said.

Donations can also be made for rebuilding efforts through www.gofundme.com. So far $13,345 has been donated as of March 10. One of the contributors was Jo Ann Fabrics and Craft Stores, which donated $1,000. In the past, Jo Ann employees donated time at the farm, and the company donated craft supplies for its educational programs, DeYoung said.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and 2 to 6 p.m. on weekdays beginning March 24 except Good Friday April 18.

"We plan on opening daily March 24 to take advantage of spring breaks," she said.

On the schedule of events are an egg hunt in the orchard among the lambs the day before Palm Sunday on April 12 and day before Easter on April 19.

Visitors can go to www.thespicylamb.com for updates and visiting hours.

DeYoung recommends wearing boots, especially if visitors plan to go into the sheep pen to pet the animals.

"We have the educational pavilion and hoop houses and all our livestock," DeYoung said. "But the red barn will be missing."

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434330-541-9434

Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP


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lman Mar 13, 2014 2:15 PM

If what the previous poster's comments are true I am concerned.  Why would the owner not have insurance when she was required to have it in case something like this happened?  I assume the park may have required her to cease all fundraising and events because she is in violation of her lease by not having insurance.  IMHO, it was irresponsible to not carry required insurance. 

My guess is there is a lot more to this story then the reporter knew at the time.  I hope the whole story comes out about the animal care, business activities and farming at this farm.  Something doesn't seem right. 

samck Mar 13, 2014 10:32 AM

I have been to Ms. DeYoung's farm many times for lambing festivals etc. I have always found her operation to be caring and wonderfully educational. I think she has been an excellent embassador for the Countryside in park farming program and her innovative programs have brought attention and involvement for the Park as a whole. I know from speaking with her over the years that this is a labor of love for her and that she has put substantial personal funds into making the operation a success. I see no reason for her not to use internet fund raising techniques to rebuild the barn. If the insurance coverage is insufficient I am certain that she will see that the building is fully restored without use of public funds. I am having a hard time understanding the ill-will and venom motivating the previous commenter.

CBowers Mar 12, 2014 7:44 PM

Laura DeYoung had NO insurance and she was required to by the National Park as a condition of her lease.  If you click on the link to the fundraising page you will see she is no longer accepting donations.  This is because the Park Service ordered her to cease all fundraising and events until further notice.  The Humane Society has been out to the farm several times to investigate neglect of the animals there. 

Tonight the new lambs out out in freezing temperatures because there is no barn.  There shouldn't be any lambs right now but poor management of allowing the ewes to be with he rams too early, there are.  This too is Laura's fault.  

As citizens WE own that farm.  We have all lost a barn and there is no insurance to replace it.  Why would anyohne donate to rebuild a barn for her 'hobby farm'' when she acted irresponsbly and had no insurance even though it was required.