John Fortin Jr. of Winslow-based Fortin Farm holds daughter Margaret, 2, while standing Tuesday with his other daughter, Aria, 6, near a tree that was struck by lightning during a weekend storm. The lightning killed eight beef cows huddled underneath the tree. A stripe of lightning-damaged bark can be seen on the pine tree at the right. A GoFundMe account has raised more than $22,000 for the Fortin Farm. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — An online fundraising campaign to raise money on behalf of a Winslow farm where eight heifers were killed in a lightning strike has far exceeded its goal of collecting $15,000.

John Fortin Jr. of Fortin Farm previously said the loss of the heifers during a rainstorm Saturday created a financial hardship, but he said Thursday he and his family were stunned by dozens and dozens of GoFundMe contributions that amounted to more than $22,000. By late Thursday afternoon the total raised was $22,358.

“That was pretty overwhelming to be honest,” Fortin said. “We were thinking we’d be lucky if we got half and might be able to replace a few of those cows, so it’s definitely pretty amazing.”

Fortin Farm is a family beef farm that’s been in operation since 1960. Fortin operates the farm with his brother and father, along with other family members. The farm did have insurance on the animals, but the policy only covered liability on the animals, not the actual loss of the animals.

The heifers were killed as they gathered under a tall pine tree that was struck by lightning during a rainstorm.

The money will allow the farm to buy new cows, and maybe a few extra. It may also use the money to do other work on the farm, Fortin said. He is considering building some structures in the pastures so that cows have shelter as storms pass through.

The farm has seen costs increase during the pandemic so the money will provide some peace of mind, said Fortin.

“It’s nice to have that cushion for a little bit,” he said.

There’s been discussions about a spaghetti dinner and silent auction to benefit the farm, which as far as Fortin is aware will still go forward. He noted that his family has donated meat and helped others in need in the past, and plans to find ways to do that again in light of the contributions to the farm.

He added that it will be nice to thank people personally for their donations.

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