Insurance and Finance

A Family Farm’s Road to Recovery

By Jennifer Chappell-Smith 9.11.17

When a tornado hit North Texas the day after Christmas in 2015, one couple in Farmersville survived a direct hit, but they almost lost their fledgling micro-dairy. Instead, their Texas Farm Bureau Insurance farm and ranch policy had them covered.

“We sell out of milk almost every day,” says Lyn Horton, who runs N & P Farm & Dairy with her husband, Steve. With a Texas Grade “A” Raw for Retail License, they provide raw goat’s and cow’s milk, yogurt, cream, buttermilk, and kefir — a healthy fermented milk product — to customers who come to the renovated farmhouse and property to make purchases.

“Our lives went on,” Lyn says of their recovery from the tornado. “We fell flat on our faces, but we’re back up on our feet.”

Assessing the Damage

The dairy farm was Lyn’s idea, but she convinced Steve to help after he retired from 29 years as a firefighter. “Steve went from working 24 hours on with 48 hours off to working 24 hours a day 30 days a month,” she says, laughing about the farming lifestyle.

After weathering the storm in Lyn’s sister and brother-in-law’s storm cellar on the adjacent property, both couples emerged to see that Lyn’s sister’s home was gone. Stunned, they walked through downed trees and fence posts to Lyn and Steve’s property. “Praise God, I did have structures standing,” Lyn says. “We didn’t have a fence to our name. Our gates were gone. We lost hay.” 

The roof and porch of the farmhouse where the couple lived — and where Steve was born and raised — were also gone. They lost one henhouse and, sadly, about 60 chickens, though the goats and cows seemed OK. Rain started falling, and they unfurled tarps to help protect the farmhouse’s interiors.

Lyn said that despite the damage, the couple discovered that almost “everything we lost was replaceable.”

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An Agent and Friend

Within a couple of hours, Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent Michael Cross stood in their driveway. “He said, ‘What can I do?’ … Give me your policy number; I’ll handle it all,’” Lyn remembers. “When your heart is aching for your sister and your neighbors who lost homes, just that one phone call you didn’t have to make was big.”

Cross walked the farm with the claims adjuster and came to the ranch to go over their losses — the home’s white picket fence, a truck, gates, corral panels, a dog run — and damage to the farmhouse. He hand-delivered the check with the insurance money, and the Hortons tapped the builder originally hired to build their new dairy barn for the home rehab. “We stayed within [Texas] Farm Bureau [Insurance]’s budget … and I got a remodeled home,” Lyn says.

Today, the dairy’s up and running, just as Lyn dreamed. “We enjoy what we do … you have to love it.”

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Lessons Learned

The Hortons offer tips to farmers who want to make sure they have the coverage they need to weather a disaster.

Update your policy regularly. A chicken coop the couple lost wasn’t covered because they hadn’t alerted their Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent and friend, Michael Cross, to the addition. “It doesn’t matter how close you are to your agent, sometimes you still have to talk business,” Lyn says. Cross recommends you sit down for a policy review every year or year and a half.

Consider coverage for perimeter fences. The Hortons salvaged two sides of their property’s perimeter fencing but had to pay out of pocket to replace the rest. Like many ranchers, they had not opted to take additional insurance coverage that provides replacement costs for fences not attached to their farmhouse. Before a disaster strikes, talk to your Agent if you need full fencing coverage.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation.

© 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance