A dream gone up in flames
Springers lose barn, goats in fire
Stephen and Brittany Springer lost their barn, milkhouse and 800 goats in a fire Dec. 24. The Springers built the 80-by-240 barn and 22-by-24 milkhouse in 2017. PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
HENNING, Minn. – Around 3 a.m. Dec. 24, Brittany Springer woke to a strange noise coming from the basement. Thinking one of her five kids might be awake, she ventured out of bed and to the hallway, peering down the stairs. She realized the odd noise was their back-up well turning on, signaling there was a water leak in the dairy barn down the hill.
As Brittany turned back to the bedroom to wake her husband, Stephen, the power in the house went out, and she noticed a dreadful orange glow illuminating the sky through their bedroom window, right where the barn should be.
Waking in a rush, Stephen scrambled to get dressed in the dark and hurried outside while Brittany called 911.
“By the time I got out there, it was all gone,” Stephen Springer said. “As I went out the basement door, the fire was billowing out the milk house window, and the roof had just fallen in.”
The buildings, which included an 80-by-240 foot barn to house their almost 800 goats and 22-by-48 foot milk house with a custom rotary parlor, were up in flames.
“This dairy has really been my dream since I was a teenager,” Springer said. “I really fell in love with (goats) when I was 13 or 14 years old and have wanted to do this since.”
Early Christmas Eve morning, that dream which came reality was destroyed.
Four fire departments tackled the blaze for roughly seven hours, dousing what was left of the Springers’ livelihood.
“It was hard,” Springer said as he remembered watching the barn burn. “All the sweat equity we put into the building definitely made it hard, but above all the hardest part was losing the goats.”
Springer had invested three years developing his herd for optimal milk production. A mix of Saanen, Alpine, Nubian and Lamancha goats rounded out the barn, and twice daily filled the 24-goat rotary parlor.
“(Losing the goats) was the hardest part for me,” Springer said. “The lives that were lost. … They were like family.”
Running the farm was a family affair, with Brittany and their five children: Savhannah, 9, Gracie, 7, Peter, 5, Paisley, 4, and Amelia, 2, following close behind.
“Savhannah was in the barn just about every night,” Springer said. “She helped with milking and helped take care of the babies.”
Springer said all the children were upset in the days following the fire.
“There was a lot of crying,” Springer said. “The goats were their pets, too. We had a lot of family time spent in the barn.”
The lingering smell of death and destruction make Springer nauseous, and for a few days after the fire, he did not even want to go outside or think about the devastation.
“It’s getting easier now,” he said. “I can see a vision of how we can redo it and how we can make changes to make it better. Part of you thinks, ‘Oh, maybe it was just a bad dream,’ but then you look out the window and the big pile of rubble brings you back to reality.”
The Springers are working with their insurance company, and have yet to receive the green light to clean up the mess.
“We’ve had a lot of people offer to help clean up or do what they can, but nothing can really be done until we are cleared from insurance,” Springer said.
Remaining on the farm are a handful of doelings, or young females, who were not housed in the barn at the time of the fire. Springer is hoping to hang on to the 60 does until they can rebuild their facilities. Springer said he hopes the barn can be rebuilt by midsummer but is skeptical with the current lumber prices.
The farm is founded in faith, said Springer, and they would be lost without the Lord’s direction.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t have faith or anything to help them out, but we can lean on God and know that he’s here with us,” Springer said. “That’s a huge part of (seeing the bigger picture).”
The family is grateful for the support from their church as well as their community.
“We’ve got a great church family that’s stood beside us and is praying for us,” Springer said. “They’re helping us pray through everything and get back on our feet again. I think faith is so critical.”
In addition to their dairy, the family sells a variety of seasonal vegetables, pasture-raised pork, grass-fed beef and organically-produced chicken, sourdough bread and goat cheese. In the summer months, they can be found at local farmer’s markets and sell year-round on their website.
The Springers will continue to lean on God and stay vigilant in their faith as they face a new year in a way they never thought they would.