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Iowans’ desire to help wildfire victims quietly catches on like wildfire

Iowans’ desire to help wildfire victims quietly catches on like wildfire
Tony Allen, right, and his son, James, strap down hay bound for Kansas to help ranchers after devastating wildfires.

Reports of the wildfires last month in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas quickly brought an outpouring of support from farmers across the United States. In an effort to cover how Iowans were reaching out to help, I started asking around on social media for help finding those efforts in the state.

You see, Iowans’ efforts to help weren’t easy to find. That’s not because they weren’t happening, but because these helpful, caring Iowans wouldn’t toot their own horns.

They didn’t want the recognition, only the word to get out to collect more donations of hay, money or fencing supplies to help farmers in need.

Once I found what some Iowans were doing to help, it seemed to create a wildfire of its own. I talked to farmers who would direct me to other farmers, who would then direct me to other efforts in the state.

Again, efforts were difficult to dig up because farmers would find ways to collect donations — usually by word of mouth — and then get started hauling their donations to the affected areas.

Miles don’t matter

Though hundreds of miles separated farmers in Iowa from farmers and ranchers in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma, it didn’t matter. And though these Iowa farmers had never met the farmers to whom they were donating, that didn’t matter, either.

Iowans simply felt it was the right thing to do — to donate whatever they could to help those who were struggling.

Tony and James Allen, a father-son duo in Union County who raise cattle, loaded up 30 bales of hay last week to be sent to Ashland, Kansas. Levi Buxton, owner of Buxton Custom of Cromwell, donated the trucking for the Allens’ hay.

"Who knows how long it’s going to be before they get their grass back," Tony said. "Even when it does grow back, it is going to take a while to get it established again."

Though he couldn’t make it rain over the affected areas, Tony said he could reach into his hay storage and help. "That’s all you can do is to help a little," he said.

Dustin Johnson in Clinton County felt the same way.

He had some extra hay he had stockpiled from a good hay crop in 2016, so he put it to good use. In coordination with local farmers and truck drivers, more than 40,000 pounds of hay was hauled to Kansas.

"To lose a bunch of your animals and all the feed for them would be a very stressful and a tough situation to go though. We had a little extra hay from last year because we had such a good year of hay production, so we thought it was a good way to help out," Johnson said.

Others, like Justin Graves in Grundy County, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Dunlap Livestock Auction were working to hold benefit auctions and collect funds in their own ways to help farmers in the affected areas.

Damage hard to imagine

"I can’t even imagine what they’re going through," said Monroe County Farm Bureau member and cattle raiser Bryan Reed. "It took these farmers and ranchers generations to build the farm and their herds, and one afternoon to destroy it all. Some people were only left with the pickup truck they drove away in."

Reed was part of an effort to collect funds for fencing supplies, which were shipped to Ashland, Kansas. He worked with local farm supply stores to get fencing materials at greatly reduced prices. About $8,000 had been gathered from the Monroe County Farm Bureau, the county cattlemen’s group and others to purchase supplies. The Cardinal FFA Chapter from Eldon also donated supplies, which were added to the delivery to Ashland.

These efforts were just a few of those I’ve learned about since I first started asking about efforts in Iowa. I’m sure that plenty more exist, but the only recognition these farmers want is to help raise more funds and bring extra help to fellow farmers in Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

That’s what good neighbors do.



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