Rising From The Ashes: A Story of Farmers Helping Farmers

After wildfires devastated farmlands in 4 states early 2017, Farmers Helping Farmers banded together to help those in need with hay donations, feed, and more.

By Claire Vath | Photos By Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle via AP

The wind howled across the Plains, riffling the prairiegrass and fanning the flames of hot oranges, fiery reds, scalding yellows. As the winds—some in excess of 60 mph—shifted direction, so too did the fires, frequently preventing firefighters’ best efforts to extinguish them. By the third week in March 2017, the inferno had consumed millions of acres across Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, as well as Kansas, where the fires were reportedly the largest in state history. The blazes—caused in part by worsening drought conditions and record-breaking temperatures the previous month—burned structures and equipment, and killed thousands of head of cattle, as well as seven people.

Yet even before the last of the wildfires burned out, hundreds of relief efforts were mobilized to help. As it’s been for generations, when a neighbor is in need, other farmers pitch in … no questions asked.

Across the United States and Canada, farmers and ranchers fueled pickups and semis loaded to the brim with feed, alfalfa seed, hay, fencing equipment and milk replacers for orphaned calves. Various businesses and other organizations— churches, co-ops, humane societies, FFA and 4-H groups—joined the effort, too. Some farmers, who themselves had suffered losses, even sent the help they were offered to neighbors whose needs were greater.

Luke Dull of Montgomery County secures a Farmers Helping Farmers sign on the back of his hay load that is headed to farms in need.

Luke Dull of Montgomery County secures a Farmers Helping Farmers sign on the back of his hay load that is headed to farms in need.

In Hays, Kansas, AGCO® dealer Lang Diesel Inc. teamed up with the Sigma Alpha agriculture sorority from Fort Hays State University to deliver fencing supplies. The retired owner of Chickasha, Oklahoma-based AGCO dealer Livingston Machinery donated hay from his own cattle operation, and Livingston dealer locations through the region became drop-off points for donated hay and supplies.

Nationally, Drovers and Farm Journal magazines launched the Drovers/Farm Journal Foundation Million Dollar Wildfire Relief Challenge. Furthering the effort of the two publications, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation pledged up to $1 million to match donations dollar for dollar through July 31, 2017, to help rebuild the 18,000 miles of fencing lost—an estimated $180 million expense.

As always, the land and hope remain. With continued help from friends and Mother Nature, cattle will return to renewed grasslands, equipment will rumble through fields, and houses and barns will be reconstructed. Families will gather to remember those they lost, grateful for lives spared and the generosity of fellow farmers and others in their time of great need.