Hay bales being loaded onto semitrailer Photo courtesy of Chris Chinn
HELPING HAND: Farmers across Missouri stepped up to help wildfire victims in the West. Many caravans of hay headed to farmers and ranchers in neighboring states like Oklahoma and Kansas.

Farmers lend hand in disaster relief

Ag Matters: Whether wildfire or tornado, farmers lend a hand to help neighbors.

“The flyover states: Nothing exciting ever happens there. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live down there.” This statement came from a fellow passenger as I was flying from California to Missouri a while back. I simply smiled and told the lady I would welcome her on our farm so she could see the wonderful things that happen every day.

I shared with her how exciting it was to watch piglets being born on our farm. I told her about planting our seeds in the spring, and waiting with great anticipation until we magically see our crops peek up from the dirt a few days later. In the fall, we race against Mother Nature to get our crops harvested while trying to tend to our cows that are calving. For most farmers and ranchers, the excitement isn’t always joyous; sometimes the excitement comes in the form of an equipment breakdown, a drought, a flood, a tornado or a wildfire.

Last month, wildfires swept through Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma and left a path of destruction. Tornadoes ripped through the Midwest and destroyed homes, schools and businesses in Missouri and other states. Even in my little community — Clarence — we were victim to the wrath of a tornado.

Fences were destroyed on our farm and my husband, Kevin, and I stayed up early into the morning hours repairing the fence and tending to our cattle. The following morning, farmers, community leaders and neighbors gathered around those who had damage to help pick up the pieces and start rebuilding. There were no phone calls made to ask for help; neighbors just showed up, because that’s what happens in the flyover states. We help without being asked, because we know our neighbors would do it for us in a heartbeat.

Agriculture one family
Agriculture is one big community; we are one family. State lines do not separate us when a fellow farmer or rancher is in need. When word of the wildfires reached Missouri, farmers and ranchers immediately started asking how they could help. 

Hay, fencing supplies, cattle feed, monetary donations and, most importantly, prayers, were offered up in a matter of hours. It has been overwhelming to see farmers and ranchers rally behind those in need over the last few weeks. When I see pictures of the destroyed pastures, homes, barns, fences and livestock, my heart breaks. These families have lost everything; some even gave their lives trying to save their cattle. The photos of semitrucks arriving with hay in the devastated areas stir many emotions in my heart. I’m certain the ranchers on the receiving end of this generosity must have felt a sense of relief and comfort knowing they were not alone in the battle they were fighting.

It was difficult for those of us unable to make the trip delivering supplies; we wanted to do more than just donate supplies or pray. Many farmers and ranchers wanted to make the trip personally, but chores still have to be done at home. Several loads of hay and fencing supplies have left our community, and many others, to head to Kansas and Oklahoma. This has happened all over the state of Missouri. Farmers are paying it forward to help our neighbors in other states. It may not be enough, but our hope is it will help our neighbors begin to rebuild. We have the backs of our fellow farmers in the flyover states — and to us, that’s a pretty outstanding reason for living here.

Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence.

TAGS: Disaster
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