Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Farmers Helping Farmers: The Farm Aid Haylift

JoelSince mid-August, Farm Aid has engaged in hay lift efforts to Oklahoma and Texas to help funnel livestock feed to low-income farmers and ranchers in those drought-plagued states.

The Oklahoma hay lift was initiated on August 12 with a direct appeal for help from Willard Tillman of the Oklahoma Black Historical Society at the National Meeting of Farm Advocates in Bonner Springs, Kansas. In response, Farm Aid immediately teamed with Family Farm Defenders of Wisconsin and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to set up a hay pipeline as quickly as possible. Wisconsin farmers responded quickly and generously to Family Farm Defenders’ call for hay donations, while Farm Aid and the Federation undertook fundraising and Farm Aid arranged for transport of donated hay. The first shipment arrived in Oklahoma City within 12 days.

Since then, we have arranged three more hay runs to Oklahoma. All told, the effort so far has delivered close to 20 tons of hay to limited resource producers in Oklahoma, with the total dollar value of hay (all of it donated) and transport (much of it of donated) topping $50,000. Farms in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan have all donated hay to Oklahoma, and we are proud to report that this is effort is all about farmers-helping-farmers. One farmer who received hay wrote us, "I just wanted you to know it has truly been a blessing to us and we appreciate it and the cows do too!"

Meanwhile, in Texas, Farm Aid has worked with several partners to assist ally organizations in shipping donated hay to the Lone Star state. We arranged transport for a hay run between Iowa and Texas for the Lutheran Church, whose Texas pastors appealed to Iowa pastors to ask their rural congregations for donated hay. We made a disaster grant of $2,500 to the Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA) to help pay for transport of certified organic hay donated from Iowa, and have put TOFGA in touch with additional organic farmers in other states willing to donate hay. We are also working with contacts in central Texas to line up hay donations from various states, including Louisiana, Virginia and elsewhere.

Watch a video of the hay arriving in Texas and being distributed to ranchers here.

Just as farmers in other parts of the country have stepped up to help Texas and Oklahoma farmers who are in trouble, we know those Oklahomans and Texans receiving hay now will return the favor when the natural disaster wheel of fortune spins again and lands elsewhere. Though the scale of drought disaster in those two states is staggering, and state and federal government cooperation and intervention are clearly needed, Farm Aid is proud to be working directly with farmers, truckers, and farm support, social service, and religious organizations that have taken it upon themselves to try to provide help as fast as possible where it is most needed. We thank everyone who has pitched in so far. If you or someone you know may be able to help us out, please contact me directly at joel@farmaid.org.

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