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The barn at the McDonald Farm in North Hamilton County stands in ruins after a fire last Sunday.

Across the street from where Brant Crowder is harvesting corn, you can see the charred remains of Old McDonald Farm's headquarters.

He sat atop the farm's combine, driving through rows and rows of corn. The combine was one of the few pieces of equipment not in the barn at the time of the fire.

"And that's only because it can't fit through the door," he said.

Pretty much everything else was destroyed when a massive fire engulfed the 104-x-60-foot barn Sunday morning. Crowder, the farm manager, estimated the farm lost $1.5 million in equipment. No other building was as important to the farm as that barn.

"I'd rather my house burn down," Crowder said.

Three fire investigators have been out to the farm, but no cause has been determined. The heat of the fire makes it difficult to find an origin. Everything in the barn was a natural accelerant — gas in the machines' tanks, old wood and rubber on the ceilings — so the fire was hot, big and destructive.

The farm is open to the public on weekends each fall, and it has only a few more weekends left before it closes for the season on Halloween. The farm closed the Sunday of the fire, and scheduled school field trips were canceled.

But the farm will be open today. Just after the fire, Crowder didn't think the farm would open again this season.

After he finally got a chance to sit down Sunday night, he looked at the messages on the farm's Facebook page for the first time.

He was shocked at how many people shared consoling thoughts. He got up Monday morning and read some more. Then he read the texts. And listened to the voice mails.

The outpouring from the community, coupled with the generosity of neighbors lending their farming equipment, made Crowder want to open up again. So Monday afternoon he started talking with his staff to see if they could logistically pull it off.

"I usually don't like Facebook," he said. "But that's the primary reason we're going to open up Saturday. All that support was something that was not expected. I expected a little bit, but nothing like what we got."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer@timesfreepress.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.

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