Ruiters to rebuild Nepean farm destroyed by fire

Just three months after fire destroyed three of their barns and killed most of their cattle, Peter and Rosemary Ruiter say they're planning to rebuild their dairy farm on Prince of Wales Drive.

Dairy farm on Prince of Wales Drive destroyed, cattle killed in Sept. 8 fire

Blackrapids farm near Prince of Wales Drive and Fallowfield Road caught fire on the afternoon of Sept. 8. No people were injured, but some 80 cattle died. (Courtesy of Ottawa Fire Services)

One of Ottawa's best-known farming families is planning to raise their dairy farm from the ashes.

Just three months after fire destroyed three of their barns and killed most of their cattle, Peter and Rosemary Ruiter say they're planning to rebuild.

"I guess my heart won out," Peter said Tuesday. "I've been a farmer all my life. I get up every morning and have been missing my cows dearly. It's what I love to do."

The Sept. 8 fire caused more than $1 million in damage to the Blackrapids farm on Prince of Wales Drive in Nepean.

The community quickly rallied around the family, calling the Ruiters agricultural ambassadors who promoted local farming in the media and schools, and helped raise money for local food banks.

That included a large fundraiser in North Gower in mid-October.

Peter and Rosemary Ruiter thank people who packed the North Gower Community Centre for a fundraiser in October. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Peter Ruiter wouldn't reveal how much was raised there, and would only say that rebuilding will cost more than $1 million and take two to three years. Just constructing a barn normally takes nine months, he said.

A family operation

"I've been going around researching other farms, what works for other farms and what I think might work for me," he said.

"I may be a little different than a lot of the other farmers who have plans to be one of the biggest farm or milk the most cows. My goal is to have a family operation where a family can run the business."

Peter said he's got about two months of serious planning under his belt, but is keeping the details to himself because "everyone tells me I'm way too hopeful," he said with a laugh.

The NCC owns the land and said in an email it's working with the Ruiter family to get the dairy farm running again.

"Dairy farming is an integral part of the NCC's sustainable agriculture strategy and the Ruiter Farm is one of only three remaining in the Greenbelt," said NCC spokesperson Cédric Pelletier.