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Plucky Delta Farmer Undaunted, Determined to Rebuild Poultry Barn Razed by Fire

Triple McLean Farms

A Delta Junction-area farmer is rebuilding a barn fire that killed 500 chickens and other livestock last spring.  Despite that and other adversity, Brandy McLain is determined to restore her poultry operation.

2013 has not been a good year for Brandy McLean. In April, she lost her barn – and the chickens, turkeys and ducks that were trapped inside. She’s stayed in business since then by growing crops and raising hogs, and had begun rebuilding the barn, with the help of her father and friends.

Then, in September, her father died.

“It’s been a rough year – one heck of a year, y’know,” McLean said. “It’s been about the worst year of my life. But I’m not going to give up.”

That pretty much sums up McLean’s attitude.

“Mom and Dad didn’t raise me to sit around crying,” she said. “You get out and do it.”

The 38-year-old single mom with two boys has been doing just that over the past several weeks, plugging away in a kind of slow-motion barn-raising. Friends helped her frame up the 16-by-20-foot structure a couple of weeks ago  

“I mean, you can actually see it now,” she said. “It’s looking great!”

McLean had hoped to have the barn done by now, but says it’s tough to get volunteer help to show up due to storms and cold snaps over the past few weeks. She’s got a few dozen chickens free-roaming, and some that she’s farmed-out to others. But she’s resigned to waiting until spring to really get back into the poultry business.

Credit Morgen McLean
Aftermath: Sheets of roofing, chicken wire and a still-smoldering pile of debris were about all that was left of McLean's barn on April 21, a day after fire destroyed it and killed 500 chickens and other fowl.

“I’ve got stock running around, living with the hogs,” she said. “I was hoping by now to be laying eggs. That’s part of my business. So it’s kind of slowed things down some.”

McLean is mostly getting by right now by selling hogs, and produce. She attended a Farmers Market in Tok over the weekend, a chance to make a little cash, and remind everyone that Triple McLean Farms is still up and running.

“We grew a lot this year, as far as cool crops and root crops and things like that. And I was able to sell a lot of that. Supplement with baked goods. I’m doing that. And I’m going down to the Tok Bazaar on Saturday, sell potatoes and some baked goods and things,” McLean said.

She said that not only earns income, “It lets people know that, hey, we had a fire, but we’re still in business.”

McLean says she and some volunteers will get back to work on the barn after Thanksgiving. She’s planning to give thanks to everyone who’s helped out on the project by throwing a big barbecue next summer. She says fried chicken will definitely be on the menu.

In the meantime, anyone who’d like to donate to the project can give to an account set up at Denali Bank or contact her through her Triple McLean Farms’ Facebook page.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.