Greenhouse restored with love
Jimi Foltz said it was “horrific.” The Peace In the Valley Herb Farm greenhouse that nurtured his seedlings, hundreds of plant trays, herbs, tools and months of preparation were all lost in a fire in the early morning hours of February 26.
Foltz recalls stoking his wood burning stove until at least 3 a.m. that evening before heading to bed.
Around 6 a.m. he said he woke to fire and rescue personnel working to put a large blaze on his property.
“It went up pretty fast,” he said.
“We don’t know if it was a wood fire or electrical short,” he said.
The fire occurred a crucial point in the growing season, potentially putting Foltz out of commission for the entire year, if not longer, as reconstruction would cost at least $20,000 dollars.
The “Market Master,” and a founding member of the Shepherdstown
Farmers Market, Foltz’s organic produce helps supply local restaurant, Mellow Moods, and his plants have long been an anchor at the Sunday market.
“I figured I was out of business,” he said.
Though Foltz has operated Peace In the Valley for the last 30 years at Back Creek Valley near Hedgesville, he said he thought February’s fire was the end.
“I totally believed right at that moment, my business and everything I worked for my whole life was gone,” he said.
Then the community intervened.
Early the next morning local farmers and friends Maura and Allan Balliett rescued some of Foltz’s remaining plants in hopes that he could start again.
Farmers market members, Maura Balliett and Megan Webber also quickly launched an online fundraising effort to help rebuild the greenhouse on crowd sourcing site, gofundme.com, raising about $9,000 dollars to date to go toward the farm.
As word of mouth spread, Foltz said numerous people contacted him or simply showed up on his farm to offer a helping hand.
“The Shepherdstown community was behind me like a force team,” he said.
“Within three weeks we already got it rebuilt,” he said.
Friend and longtime customer Todd Cotgreave organized a benefit concert for Foltz held Sunday evening at the Community Club, which featured about five local bands who played for free, and raised about $2,500 dollars.
“You know you’re living in the right town when this many people come out to help a local farm,” Cotgreave said
Last weekend also marked the completion of the external shell of the greenhouse, built largely by volunteers.
“I’ve never felt such love and beauty from so many people,” Foltz said.
:This has stoked my fires,” he said.
“I want to serve the Shepherdstown community for the rest of my life.”
Foltz said he hopes to begin moving plants back into the greenhouse in the coming weeks and plans to back the Shepherdstown Farmers Market when it returns, April 6.