'This isn't just a job. It's our lives': Tornado ravages New Jersey's largest dairy farm

MULLICA HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The blue skies and chalky clouds above Wellacrest Farms resemble illustrations in a children's book. But the destruction on the ground evokes images more akin to a horror film.

"It's hard to believe that, for about one minute of time, so much destruction could happen," said Eric Eachus, a third-generation co-owner of the farm his grandparents built in 1943.

Wednesday's tornado in Mullica Hill was one of seven confirmed in the Greater Philadelphia area. It has left homes and businesses in disarray.

"This isn't just a job, it's our lives," said Eachus about farming. "We eat it, breathe it, sleep it, it's everything."

Now ranked New Jersey's largest dairy farm, Wellacrest has to fix an understandably massive mess. At least nine buildings have incurred damages while five barns have been destroyed. In the tornado's aftermath, roughly 800 cows had escaped into the woods. Family and friends herded the runaways into roofless corrals.

"We've had three cows that didn't make it," said Eachus. "We have 1,400 total, so I mean, it could have been a lot worse. Let's put it that way."

Less than 48 hours after the damage, crews have begun clearing debris and building shelters for livestock. Eachus says local construction crews and other business partners have rushed to their aid. The community has donated food and beverages while local restaurants hauled free food trucks to the farm.

One neighbor created a GoFundMe page that has received $30,000 in donations from people around the local community and the world abroad.

"Everything in the world relies on agriculture, so people, doesn't matter where they are or what walk of life, when they see something like this, they want to try to help in any way they can," said Eachus.

He estimates it could take years to rebuild the business his grandparents founded nearly 80 years ago. But Eachus says the future is bright.

"I have two young boys and maybe I'll pass it on to them someday," he said. "Hopefully, we can keep it going until then and rebuild it to make it an even better future for them as well."

The farm discourages in-person visitors due to the dangerous conditions on the ground. To learn how you can help, visit their Facebook page. There has also been a "Help Mullica Hill from Tornado Damage" page created to aggregate resources for families affected by the tornado.

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Residents in Mullica Hill are grateful for the support of neighbors and strangers alike after a tornado barreled through their homes.

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