Held at the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas, on August 11 & 12, our National Meeting of Farm Advocates was, like our Farm Aid 20l1 concert the following day, a rousing success.
Organized and hosted by Farm Aid and the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), the meeting attracted farm advocates, counselors, attorneys, disaster experts, social workers, state and federal officials and many others from all over the country. The larger purpose of this unprecedented meeting was to bring together a diverse array of established and upcoming farm advocates from all of the organizations Farm Aid works with to create a national farm advocates network through which training, recruitment and support of farm advocates might smoothly proceed. Farm advocates are our “front line troops” who work directly with farmers and ranchers who call or email the Farm Aid hotline seeking financial, legal, disaster and all other kinds of help.
Some of the Farm Advocates who attended the National Meeting
For the moment, one quickly told success story that resulted directly from the meeting: prior to the meeting’s very last session, an Oklahoma advocate named Willard Tillman appealed to the assembled group of nearly 100 advocates for hay for livestock belonging to limited resource farmers he works with in the Oklahoma City region. Immediately after Willard’s appeal, we from Farm Aid, Family Farm Defenders, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and Rural Coalition put our heads together to organize what we call a hay lift as fast as possible. A haylift basically involves donation of hay from a region of country unaffected by drought to farmers in an area of drought so affected that there is no pasture of hay left to feed livestock. Twelve days later, the trucks were rolling.
As this morning, the first truckload of hay, donated by Wisconsin farmers, picked up and trucked by Shomotion, a company providing specialized transportation solutions for touring acts, arrived in drought-parched Oklahoma City. The second truck arrived this afternoon. Mr. Tillman is distributing the hay to farmers in need. He knows this is in fact a farmer-helping-farmer effort, and his farmer crew will “pay it forward” as soon as they possibly can.
It’s 105 degrees in Oklahoma City today. It’s been over 100 there for almost two straight months, and you can bet your bottom dollar that those Oklahoma farmers are sweating bullets as they unload the hay. But they now know that the National Farm Advocates Network (no formal title yet, but that sounds pretty good!) is up and running and this is the first of many coordinated efforts to help keep America’s farmers on the land.
If you'd like to be part of the effort to help family farmers affected by drought, please make a donation to Farm Aid today. If you have hay or transportation to donate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 671-354-2922.
Here's a shot of Willie pitching in to help pull off a previous haylift organized by Farm Aid