Dec 312013

Firefighters finish dousing the Blood Farm meat processing plant fireArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Firefighters finish dousing the Blood Farm meat processing plant fire on Sunday

Two days after a devastating fire destroyed the meat slaughter house, smokehouse, and butcher shop at Blood Farm in West Groton, ripples from the early Sunday morning blaze were echoing from Beacon Hill throughout New England’s farming and food-loving communities.

Greg Watson, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, said he was planning to visit Barney Blood, the 90-year old fifth generation owner of the 1724 farmstead early next week to sit and talk farming a bit. He’s also interested in encouraging Blood to rebuild his ruined business because of its key position in the state’s agricultural community. Watson’s agency is working on developing a strategic agricultural infrastructure plan, and Blood Farm fits right into that — and its absence would have a statewide impact.

Watson will join a steady stream of friends and customers who have been dropping by the farm to offer their support and urge Blood to rebuild. The driveway from the street to the farmhouse was as crowded on Tuesday as the parking lot to the smokehouse and retail store was before most major holidays.

Instead of long lines winding through the smokehouse as people picked out turkeys or hams, this week, only a few of the 20 farm employees were at work Monday and Tuesday, sifting through charred artifacts in the concrete block factory. Insurance adjusters and investigators were still on the scene, conducting their own investigation in parallel with the state fire marshal’s office.

Even the temporary closing of Blood Farm, “Is a big problem. I’ve seen license plates from all surrounding states — New Hampshire and Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and even Maine in their driveway,” George Moore said. Moore is a longtime Groton farmer who chairs the Groton Agricultural Commission and is the town’s Animal Inspector, Fence Viewer, and Field Driver (the person responsible for taking up untended animals such as horses, sheep, goats, swine, asses, and neat cattle going at large in public ways or commons or unimproved land not under care of a keeper).

One of just three USDA approved slaughterhouses in Massachusetts Blood Farm was the only one in the eastern part of the state. Many local farms and stores throughout New England had their own or local beef, pork, and poultry processed at Blood Farm. Riding a rising tide of interest in locally grown and sourced food, small farms throughout New England relied on the custom work Blood Farm was known for. In addition to agricultural work, Blood Farm would also process venison and other game from fall hunts. The walls of the retail store were lined with photos of the many Little League and other youth sports teams the farm sponsored, and displayed hundreds of prize ribbons from 4-H projects that Blood Farm supported, and sometimes butchered.

Until Barney Blood decides whether to rebuild or not, or possibly to pass control of the operation to the sixth generation of his family, buyers and sellers of local meat products will need to find new suppliers and vendors.

The metropolitan Boston Islamic community will also feel the loss because Blood Farm was a halal slaughterhouse, able to prepare meats according to Islamic law.

According to Groton Fire Chief Joe Bosselait, the fire was still under investigation, but seemed to have started in the smokehouse area of the factory / store complex. Unofficial sources said the four alarm fire may have been caused by an electrical malfunction.