On the morning of March 13, fire ravaged a game farm in Springfield.
More than 20,000 quail and 30 pigs died in the 19th century barn. The birds and pork were destined for some high-end dinner plates.
Customers are now frantically trying to buy up what’s left.
On that awful morning, as Rick Thompson watched the business he started with his brother Bill go up in smoke, he was heartsick about the dying animals-and scared.
"Once the flames started there was no stopping… we knew there was no salvaging the building and what was inside and at that point it was pretty scary because I really wasn’t sure that we had adequate coverage at all. But fortunately we did," Rick said.
So there is enough insurance to get some new sows and start re-breeding quail at Cavendish Game. But all that will take time, possibly until the end of the summer. Meanwhile, the brothers are trying to figure out how to keep their customers satisfied, and cash coming in. They plan to buy and sell turkeys, guinea hens, and pheasant. Ironically, they’ve been swamped with quail orders since news of the fire spread.
Shortly before Passover one woman wanted to order 50 quail eggs to hard boil for her Seder dinner. She’s a loyal customer, so she got a dozen. The brothers want to hatch most of the remaining eggs to replace the burned birds.
In an outbuilding not far from the charred remains of a barn, Bill Thompson checked on the last remaining flock, which is being selected for healthy mothers-to-be.
"For now we’re gonna pull a thousand breeders…hens-we have a little old facility we used to put birds on, we built it to collect eggs, it’s like a sloped floor, and that will give us some eggs to keep into the quail business… a little bit of cash flow coming in."
His cell phone made a cricket sound not unlike the chirping of the baby quail– likely another order. Luckily, the Thompsons say, their quail are so unusual-bigger and plumper than most-that chefs and gourmet cooks say they are willing to wait for the next generation of poultry to grow up.
Meanwhile, they will have to put some other delicacy on their menus.