A Sense of Pride

Written by Amanda Kramer

We’ve been home for a few days now and looking back on my trip to Kansas, I couldn’t be more proud of my community, state, and farmers from all across America. What started as an absolutely devastating natural disaster has turned into hope for so many. There were five times on our trip that I stopped what I was doing, and compiled my thoughts.

When you pull into a rest stop along I-70 in a van full of complete strangers, and you see nearly every parking space full of loads of hay, feed, fencing supplies, and household items, all being gathered by people who don’t know each other, being hauled by people who don’t know each other, and then being taken over 1000 miles across the country to complete strangers, it literally sends goosebumps down your spine. That was the first time this trip that it pulled at my heart strings.

The second time I felt all of the love for those affected by the fires was several hours later rolling down I-70 coming through IL and MO. As our group in the van started to pass members of our convoy with American flags flying from all corners of their trailers full of hay and supplies, you can’t help but look. It shows signs of unity.

The third time I felt the power of love and support to our fellow farmers and ranchers in the west was driving down 34 heading south into Ashland, KS. When you start to see charred grass, burnt out trees, and structures that are unrecognizable your eyes start to well up, you can’t breath, and your heart races. You have all these thoughts that start to run through your head, the thoughts of what if, what if this was me? Would complete strangers drive all the way to Ohio to help us? But then you remember you are part of the few farmers left in this country, you are a dying breed, and every farmer has the next farmers back.
By this time I still had goosebumps and we are pulling into Ashland Feed & Seed, the hub of deliveries of supplies from all across the nation. The amount of hay stacked there was unbelievable, piles and piles of fencing supplies. My jaw hit the ground in utter disbelief! American Farmers are literally the best people on the face of this planet, that was the fourth time of shock and awe.
The fifth and final time that I was stopped dead in my tracks was riding around in the truck with Kyle. Kyle is the herd manager at Rhoades Ranch, Ashland, KS where I spent 1.5 days working at tearing out burnt out wooden fence posts. Listening to Kyle tell me the stories about what was there and seeing what isn’t there anymore was heart wrenching. Seeing the look in his eyes as he told me about the number of cattle they had lost, the cattle they had to put down, and the fact that they were still missing three; it tells a person that yes all farmers care about their livestock, and being put into that situation is one of the hardest situations that I’m not so sure that I could endure.
I am beyond grateful that I was given the opportunity to go on this trip, and given the chance I would go again. “Farmers Helping Farmers” was our slogan for the week, and you better believe it, we helped those farmers in their time of greatest need, knowing that one day they’ll still be here to help us if we ever need it.
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Thank you.

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It seems unfair that our group that stayed in Ashland, Kansas, this weekend received the praises. The trip was never about us. It was about something so much bigger.

The list for thank yous could go on forever. We owe our gratitude to the Ohioans who loaned trailers, filled loads of hay, pitched in fence posts or wire, and shared our story. The countless donors who sent us cash and told us they wished they could do more: they deserve our thank yous, too. It was the efforts of many who enabled us to make a small difference this weekend. We may have been the hands, but the hearts were many.

For all of your who enabled our group to do what we did, thank you is not enough.

A hard day’s work

There’s nothing like a hard day’s work. When you can look back at the end of the day and see what you’ve accomplished, it brings a sense of joy. However, that joy is escalated when you’ve put in a hard day’s work for someone you don’t even know to take a load off of their shoulders.

Our group has spent the last day and a half in Ashland, Kansas, the epicenter of the damage from the Starbuck Wildfire. We’ve stepped out of our comfort zones as we’ve stepped onto the properties of strangers. We’ve heard their stories; we’ve seen their struggles. We’ve learned how to do new jobs, and we’ve made it our goal to get through just “one more stretch of fence” before we call it quits.

It’s been a couple of hard days’ work, but gosh, it’s felt good.

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Thumbs up for farmers.

17498470_10154196643676784_2715516265563401642_nIt was kind of a last  minute decision to order some of these banners. In fact, it was 11:00 Monday evening when I hit submit on the internet order, and thanks to the miracle of speedy shipping, the banners were dropper on our porch Wednesday afternoon.

This week, the media attention to this project has been humbling to say the least. Greg and I have been quick to point out the efforts of the other Ohio groups participating too. In fact, it was because of several groups joining together into one band that the project has grown to the magnitude it has. One thing that we’ve said again and again is that we hope that what we’re doing in Ohio will draw attention to the challenges our counterparts in the west are facing.

This project has been about farmers helping farmers. That seemed like a simple message to convey on these 3’x5′ banners that adorn several loads of our hay. As we caravanned across the country today (umm… 700 some miles), the thumbs up from passing drivers showed us that they read our banner, but, more importantly, that they understood our message.

Farmers helping farmers, or even more widespread, people helping people: that’s what humanity is about. I’ll give a thumbs up for that.

 

 

One day closer to Kansas

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What a week it has been. It was just last Monday when Greg shot me a text to ask if I wanted to ride to Kansas with him to take hay. He laughs and says I’m the crazy one who took that idea and ran with it. I say I’m just the organizer for lots of crazy ones who have a heart to help others. At the same time Greg and I started pulling together a plan, tons of others across the state felt a similar call to reach out to ranchers we’ve never met. I’m more than willing to be the crazy one who works behind the scenes to make this happen. I can’t take all the credit. There are so many hearts and hands working together to pull together volunteers and resources to reach out to Kansas friends we’ve yet to meet.

Here is a quick run-down of our group’s plans:

  • Everyone from the initial Ohio convoy that is leaving on Friday will meet at Ohio mile marker 3 near the Indiana/Ohio state line on Interstate 70 at 8:30am.
  • We anticipate over 30 vehicles of hay and supplies and 50 volunteers coming from all corners of the state.
  • When we meet up Friday morning, we hope to quantify the Ohio donations. I imagine we will all be overwhelmed by the generosity of the Ohio farming community.
  • From that stop, we will convoy west, stop for a few hours of sleep, and arrive in Ashland, Kansas, around noon on Saturday.
  • Many of the hay haulers will turn right around and head back to their other responsibilities in Ohio. Approximately 25 of us are staying in Kansas with host families to volunteer our time and talents for a few days.

As we get closer to Friday, the plan continues to evolve, and the fine details start to take care of themselves. We are excited for this week’s adventure and for the opportunity to help alleviate a burden from ranchers who sacrificed much in the past several weeks. Stay tuned to see how our project continues.

In the beginning…

Our farming and ranching friends in the West have suffered tremendous losses. Their homes, belongings, and livelihoods have been destroyed. I read in awe the stories of the cattlemen in Texas who gave their lives to protect their animals. I was overcome with emotion realizing that they demonstrated the passion that all of us have for our industry.

Some young farmers from our area began organizing a load of hay to go west. Of course, our farm was willing to help. However, as I talked with my husband, we wanted to do more. We decided to gather a small group to travel and volunteer for a few days. The response we received has blown us away. This project has become a true group effort of farmers here in Ohio who want to give of themselves, because we know others would do the same for us.

Now, we are inviting others to join us. We have contacted the Kansas Livestock Association, who is the main contact for relief efforts in their state. They are organizing fence building and clean-up projects for an Ohio group to undertake in the Sunflower State. Please visit this link, where you will find a form to pledge your support. If you would like to travel with the group, please complete the form by March 20.

Here are items you can provide:

-Fencing supplies like t-posts and barbed wire
-Milk replacer (many calves have lost their mamas and are now orphans)
-Cash toward the Ohio group’s travel expenses (paypal.me/KansasWildfires Any donations raised above our expenses and the freight to get donated hay west will be donated directly to the Kansas Livestock Association)

-Cash directly to farm organizations in the states affected (donation form)

I am confident we can make a difference. Let’s work together to pool our resources and efforts to leave a true impact. If the tables were turned, our friends in agriculture would do the same for us. That’s what makes our industry so special.