Our pork processor burned down and I was there

Normally I make my run to the various farms we represent on Tuesday. But this week, Christy could only meet on Wednesday so she asked if I could reshuffle. We don’t do this change of plans often, but it isn’t completely uncommon either. Sure, Wednesday it is.

But this week, I needed to make a pickup at Dean Street Processing in addition to my normal meetup at Custom Quality Packers with Christy. So a bit of extra time was needed in my schedule.

Except I stayed super busy trying to get computer work done right up until it was time to leave. As I headed out to the garage at a sprint to get to Dean Street, then get to Custom Quality to meet Christy, after hooking up the trailer which was hooked up to the charger, which needed to be disconnected and stowed, I skidded to a halt, realizing that all the trash was still in the back of the truck. Argh!! I forgot to go to the dump on Tuesday!

So hair on fire trip to the dump, then back to get the trailer, then race to Custom Quality to meet Christy. THEN I’ll have to go to Dean Street after instead of before, so I need to text Tamryn and let her know I’ll be late.

Sigh, just another day for me.

As I turned onto the road leading to Custom Quality, I noticed smoke in the distance, in line with where Custom is. I’m still several miles away and there are some farmers fields around Custom so maybe someone is burning off a crop? As I get closer, and get sight of Custom Quality I see that my hope is dashed. Smoke is pouring out of Custom and so are people. Employees are moving their cars away from the building and it isn’t just a little bit of smoke. Something is really on fire. Christy pulls to the side of the road in front of the building. I do the same. Barrett, the owner of Custom Quality comes roaring around the building in his truck still pulling a pig trailer loaded with pigs. About that time the first fire truck arrives and I watch as all the employees cars block the fire truck from getting access. Everyone is scrambling to move cars and let the fire department in. It is quite a scene.

Christy and I pull around the corner and find a quiet spot to exchange pleasantries and farm goodness. Fire trucks continue to arrive and once we are completely cross loaded we walk back over just to see what is going on. The pigs have been turned loose from the processor, getting a stay of execution they seem rather non-plussed about. They are just milling around the parking lot in between the firemen. The building is rolling smoke from all sides but I don’t see any flames. Maybe it is one room that is burning and it is just smoke damage everywhere else. Hopefully.

I head over to Dean Street, where it is a bit non-standard there. Brooke, my normal point of contact isn’t there so Rachel is helping me. After our exchanges, Brooke comes racing in grabbing water for people who are at Custom. I help her load a flat and she roars back off to go help. I decide to swing back by and just catch a glimpse of what is going on. It seemed every fire truck in three counties had responded so surely it was out by now. As I pulled by an hour after first arriving, I took this pic.

Custom Quality Packers burning
Still burning an hour later

The place was surrounded by fire trucks and it was still burning heavily an hour later. I couldn’t believe it. Later I found that the fire wasn’t officially put out till around 5pm! Here is a news article about the fire.

You can see the pigs walking around while they are fighting it

So why does all this matter? Custom Quality Packers is where we normally take our hogs to be processed. Dean Street does all the sausage, bacon, butchery, etc but Custom does the actual kill and initial work. Normally we’d be in a bind but we’d just switched over to taking our hogs to Micro Summit Processors in Micro NC. Remember that with Corona all the processors were super backed up? We’d had to shift what we were doing and literally dropped off our first hogs at Micro this same week and we are already on the schedule there for additional hogs next month. That was close!

We have friends at Custom Quality and regardless of our relationship, this industry doesn’t need to loose a processor. They are VITAL to our continued business. This is no bueno.

So with smoke in my nostrils, I raced to make the rest of my runs, arriving home in time to be late for lunch. By the time I got back, it was almost time to open the store. Jeanette had already unloaded some of the trailer but I jumped in to unload the rest of it. By this time, we had a crowd out front waiting for us to open (a normal Wednesday occurrence) and one of our regular customers poked his head in and asked if I needed help.

Sure, says I. Never one to turn down help unloading a trailer bulging with meat and farmy goodness.

Trent jumped right in and helped like he’d been working here already

So Trent got out of line to get into the store and instead helped me unload the last of the stuff from the trailer. It goes much faster with two people. Seemingly more than twice as fast because there isn’t as much walking back and forth. I was most appreciative.

With the trailer unloaded, I snuck Trent in the back door to get him into the store. It surely wasn’t fair to put him back in line waiting like everyone else after he’d helped me. We chatted and visited a bit as well. Nice guy. Turns out his former roommate and I chatted last time I was in the store and he’s in the real estate business like we are. Small world!

So that was the first half of my day. I can’t even tell you what the rest of it was like. Probably paying bills of welding something. Who knows at this point. Just another day on the farm.

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

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