Gov. Roy Cooper visited Maple View Farm in Hillsborough on Saturday, surveying damage to both the farm and the Maple View Agricultural Educational Center caused by a tornado that touched down in Orange County on Friday.
“You see here that farming is a hard job anyways and weather makes it tougher,” Cooper said. “I know [Maple View Farm is] grateful for the fact that no one was injured but I know it’s frustrating to see the damage that has been done.”
Two barns at the dairy farm were destroyed on Friday by the mile-and-quarter-wide tornado that swept through the area, and the educational center’s hayride and play structure were split into several pieces. Multiple cow pens were damaged and the farm was without power until 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
There was also a fire at the educational center that did not damage the main structure, believed to be caused by a transformer hit by the storm.
Cooper toured the damage at both the farm and the educational site, talking about the size of the destruction and possible repair strategies with Maple View farmers and Orange County administration. At the educational center, he found a hammer head that had been separated from its handle by the storm.
“As you see that hammer head being split from the handle, as you see posts being driven into the ground, as you see huge trees snap like twigs for several miles, it is amazing and we’re very thankful that no one was seriously hurt,” he said.
Maple View Farm has a large presence in Orange County, and springtime is one of the busiest seasons for their educational center, a non-profit created to to teach visitors about agriculture. The farm also operates a popular homemade ice cream stand.
Allison Nichols, the director of the Maple View Agricultural Educational Center and a partner with Maple View Ice Cream, said that surrounding farmers and customers have reached out via phone, email and social media to check on the safety of the Maple View staff and livestock.
“We feel honored to have such a sense of community and that [the governor] would take the time out to come and tour the damage, not only here but in other parts of Hillsborough,” she said.
Friday was the tenth anniversary of the Maple View Agricultural Educational Center. No field trips were scheduled for the site on Friday due to the Good Friday holiday.
Nichols was one of the first to assess the damage to the center on Friday.
“It was a little overwhelming,” she said. “I cried a lot and then we just started picking things up and figuring out what we could salvage and what couldn’t be salvaged.”
The center plans to reopen on Monday and has five groups of students scheduled for the coming week. Nichols said that they will conduct the field trips indoors while they clean up the barnyard area.
Maple View Farm is still assessing the cost of the overall damage done to their property.
Cooper said that, in light of the tornado damage and other storm damage in North Carolina recently due to Hurricane Florence and other weather events, the state has to focus on coordinating its emergency preparedness.
He also applauded a "neighbors helping neighbors" reaction to disastrous weather that he said he's seen many times in North Carolina.
“It’s unfortunate but with climate change, with weather becoming more ferocious, we have to be on guard more than ever before,” he said. “North Carolinians are a determined bunch and we care about our neighbors."