Fire is a mesmerizing thing. It dances and crackles and warms, but it can also be unbelievably frightening. Imagine a wild, out-of-control blaze coming at you, your home and your family and being helpless to stop it.
Heartbreaking stories are coming from our neighbors to the west. Farmers and ranchers in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado have been devastated by early March wildfires that swept through their farms. The land will come back; grass is already peeking through the ashes. But, some lost their homes, livestock, livelihood and loved ones. The media was filled with stories of loss and courage, but the images it showed didn’t scratch the surface of the physical and emotional reality these people are facing.
There is, however, also hope.
Across Missouri and the Midwest, farmers and ranchers came together quickly. Within a couple of days, convoys had been organized to bring relief to those who had lost everything to the wildfires, to help feed the livestock they have left and to bring hope that they will come through these devastating blazes.
As an example, a group of Missouri Farm Bureau young farmers and ranchers (YF&R) worked together to bring 14 loads of hay to Knowles, Okla. They turned around a couple of days later to deliver five loads to Kansas.
Farmers and ranchers have a sense of how quickly things can change, and they know it could be them just as easily at Mother Nature’s whim. For some of the young farmers from Cedar County who made the trip to Oklahoma, it was a tornadic experience they remember and the clean up afterward that took months. As a result, they decided to help directly and immediately. No middlemen. No red tape. After a phone call to the Beaver County, Okla., YF&R committee chair, plans were set in motion.
Today, I had wanted to write about National Ag Day, which takes place March 21, 2017. The event is 44 years old. Organized by the Agriculture Council of America, composed of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities, National Ag Day celebrates agriculture’s role in modern society and the farmers and ranchers who bring us the food, fiber and fuel we use to live our lives. I was going to write about their many accomplishments, their carbon footprint reduction, the use of cutting-edge technology, less land, less water, better yields. I would have included numbers like the $88.4 billion economic impact Missouri agriculture has on our economy, or the 378,232 people who owe their jobs to agriculture.
But at the end of the day, the accomplishments and the economic contributions are eclipsed by the integrity, character and heart inside the farmers I am honored to know. They are amazing people who choose to love the land and their neighbors. They are the epitome of paying it forward.