Farmers are certainly used to challenges, but the drought situation in the South is posing more than a challenge at this point. According to Willard Tillman, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, the drought is forcing some very tough decisions.
"We've just had our 53rd day of between 100 and 110," Tillman said. "Right now most of the small guys I deal with, I deal basically with the small and socially disadvantaged, limited resource farmers, but the biggest problem right now is that there is no hay. A lot of these guys are faced with the decision of whether to get rid of the animals that they have, and I'm doing everything within my power to get them some hay into this area."
Tillman's group is working with Farm Aid to coordinate distribution of hay to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers devastated by drought. The idea for the hay lift came together in a meeting ahead of this year's Farm Aid concert in Kansas City. Oklahoma farmers talked about the toll the drought was taking, forcing many farmers and ranchers to sell their animals because they couldn't feed them. So farmers with hay are reaching out to those in need with hay donations.
"We received a small shipment of hay, which was very much needed, and it was gone within an hour and a half," Tillman said. "The farmers are very appreciative of anything they can get right now because there is no hay. We've had such a drought here that there is nothing to graze on, there's nothing."
Access to hay resources will help some farmers stay on the farm, but Tillman notes transportation has been a challenge. Carolyn Mugar of Farm Aid says "Just a Bunch of Roadies" - founded by the Farm Aid 2011 concert production manager, is helping to transport the hay.
"We called them and within a couple of hours they got some trucks for us and they've already taken two loads of hay from Wisconsin to Oklahoma," Mugar said. "We now have offers of quite a bit more hay in Wisconsin and Minnesota and farmers are beginning to call in with offers and it's a wonderful connection and that is the kind of spirit this is based on, farmer helping farmer. We're just happy that we can help kind of knit it together with trucks and drivers and whatever else is needed in between."
Mugar says they could us additional offers to help with the trucking of the hay, even cash donations for truck rentals. They'll of course continue to accept hay donations as well. If you would like to make a donation, or have hay or transportation to make available, contact Farm Aid at 1-800-FARMAID or online at www.farmaid.org.