‘Good side of disaster’: Utah farmer sees outpouring of support after flood destroys property, drowns goats

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Randy Ramsley poses with some of his goats at Mesa Farm Market in 2018. (Courtesy of Visit Utah, photo by Larry Price, Mesa Farm)

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CAINEVILLE, Utah (ABC4) – Sept. 1 was a forgettable day for Randy Ramsley.

The owner of Mesa Farm Market, a small, humble, but well-loved Southern Utah agricultural Mecca, known for its large herd of cheese-producing goats, was out working on a couple of projects when the rain began.

As quickly as it had begun, the rain turned into a downpour as Mother Nature unleashed her fury on the lower 40 acres of the farm’s property.

“It was just a massive amount of water I can’t even tell you how much water it was,” Ramsley recalls to ABC4.com. “I’ve been here for the great flood of 2008, and my farm has been flooded, believe it was in 2014, and I’ve never seen anything like this one.”

The flash flood carried over a foot of debris, mud, and sand onto the farmland, destroying a great deal of fencing, as well as bridges to help the goats cross the terrain and a couple of sheds.

Worse yet, 11 goats – about a third of his herd – were killed as they were unable to escape the pen they were kept in.

In the days since, cleaning up the damage, including disposing of the lost goats, has been an arduous task for the senior, who has been working the land since he first bought it and painted the exterior of his main shop and eatery a vivid shade of purple more than 20 years ago.

Selling off the remaining supply of goats and getting out of the business was a consideration.

The community, particularly the cheese-loving community, however, wouldn’t let Mesa Farm slip away.

A Go Fund Me page was set up by Samantha Starr, a crew member at Caputo’s Market & Deli, where Mesa Farm cheese is sold, earlier this week. In just two days, the page has raised nearly $12,000 from 149 different donors.

Comments on the page reinforced what the sum of money and the speed it was raised in had already shown; Ramsley and his farm meant a lot to a lot of people.

“We always remember this wonderful place: the delicious cheese, the freshly baked bread, the great conversations with Randy. Truly a special place!” wrote one donor.

“I LOVE Randy’s cheeses, and I love his farm, his relationships with his animals and land and customers and world. Mesa Farms is a unique and beautiful treasure that brings joy to so many who have the incredible good fortune to experience and appreciate it,” commented another.

Matt Caputo, who owns the deli and has built a close relationship with Ramsley over the years, wasn’t surprised to see the outpouring of support given to his vendor and friend.

“I think it’s a great reflection of the meaning that this community takes in his work,” he says of Ramsley. “It’s something so special to people that have been there. It has an impact on them and I’m glad to see the opinion that I have is very broadly shared through the communities, as demonstrated by so many people.”

Caputo’s whole staff, led by Starr, has made an emphasis on helping Ramsley through the disaster. It’s the least they could do, he says. When Caputo takes his entire team down to Mesa Farm for an annual Goat Camp, Ramsey never charges him any money for several days worth of meals, gas, and lodging. Caputo always offers to pay for the experience and is consistently turned down by the farmer, year after year.

Ramsley says at first, he was reluctant to accept any help – that’s the Leo in him, he claims, blaming his nature on his astrological sign. In his typically humble way, he also admitted he didn’t feel worthy of the assistance.

However, as the years have passed and added up, the physical strength Ramsley has lost has been replaced by wisdom.

He appreciates the help – it’s needed. Replacing the goats will cost around $500 each. At first feeling destitute about the situation, Ramsley says he’s been revitalized to continue his work, providing sustainable food with a distinct taste of the Capitol Reef area, as Caputo describes.

“The outpouring of community and support from people, some of whom I don’t know, is so enlivening and so energizing that it kind of makes one ponder the nature of the life experience,” Ramsley states poetically. “It’s the tragedies, and then the silver linings, the beauty and the grace that comes from keeping your eyes open to see the good side of disaster. It’s really hard, but it can be done.”

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