You’d be hard-pressed to find a farmer that doesn’t believe they’re cut from a different rug than the rest of society.
This week may be proving that farmers care more than most.
While wildfires have ravaged Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado farmers across the country have reacted. This isn’t a story of neighbors helping neighbors, it’s a story of neighbors reaching across the country to help total strangers.
“Why not?” asked Andy Jahn, a 35-year-old farmer from Croswell, Michigan. “I mean, I’m just one person but there has to be something I can do.”
When wildfires began to destroy equipment, crops and livestock it effectively destroyed lives simultaneously. In Kansas, one person died as a direct result of the wildfire that struck that region. Hundreds of farmers lost their livelihoods.
“It’s not like they’ve got a backup plan for that,” said Jahn, explaining that farmers in the midwest not only lost their cattle, crops and land; but any hope of turning a profit for the next 2-3 years. “They’re not diversified. They’re ranchers, that’s all they do.”
Michigan farmers may not know the exact position those farmers are in, but they know enough to realize it’s a dire situation they wouldn’t want to see themselves in. That’s why a group sprung up online called “Michigan Convoy.” Farmers, like Jahn, are banding together to gather hay, fencing supplies, and other livestock supplements.
The response has been overwhelming. Farmers have donated semi-trailer loads of hay that value between $3,000 and $4,000, others have stepped forward and offered their time and trucks to haul equipment, some have offered the gas money it will take to haul the loads. The movement is massive, but more help is needed.
“It’s not cheap,” said Jahn. “It’s a long distance, but we’re trying to do what we can.”
Jahn estimated that each truck will spend roughly $1,200 for a roundtrip. He’s estimated that they’ll run 50 trucks to Kansas this week, if the need is there they will bee-line to Texas and deliver whatever else they can.
“Everything we have to work with just gone,” lamented Sue Guigar, another local farmer who is donating items to Jahn. “It’s just gone. I can’t imagine that, so this is one way we can help them.”
“Most places don’t have that love, or that situation where you help each other. Farmers do that. We help each other.”
According to the Associated Press, two days of fires burned 625 square miles of land in Kansas. Dozens of buildings were destroyed, and estimates of the area impacted top 50-percent in some counties. A similar story has played out in three other nearby states, while high-winds and dry conditions continue to cause anxiety for those who haven’t been touched by the recent fires.
More than 15 trucks left Michigan on Friday, while another dozen are scheduled to leave on Saturday. A larger group will leave Perry, Michigan on Sunday afternoon.
Until then supplies are being taken at a variety of locations throughout Michigan, but the brunt of the need at this point is the gas money for the drivers, and truckers, who’ve lined up willing to loan their time and vehicles but don’t have the means to make the trip.
If you’d like to help Andy Jahn’s group make the next trip, you can donate — and connect with Jahn by visiting the group’s page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1923648724531621/
A statewide effort is also working with farmers across the state. You can find more information, here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/406698383026776/