Delivering Hope

Jun 03, 2022
High winds and dry conditions: the perfect recipe for wildfires. Kansas farmers and ranchers know this recipe too well. Add-a-heading.png

In 2021, there were a total of 16 reported wildfires in Kansas, leaving 163,755 acres burned in their wake. The largest fire, burning over 150,000 acres, was the Four County Fire in Ellis, Rooks, Osborne and Russell Counties on December 15, 2021. The losses from this fire were devastating. Livestock, homes, buildings, feed, and miles of fence destroyed. Where outbuildings and century old home once stood, mangled piles of rubble awaiting disposal. 

The devastation of this disaster came with the decision to either clean up and rebuild or throw in the towel. 
Farmers and ranchers know that sometimes the only thing between calling it quits and getting back in the saddle is someone to deliver hope during a tragedy. And that is just what the community of farmers and ranchers from across the country provided. Hope. 

They rallied together to deliver feed, temporary housing for livestock, fencing supplies, meals for families and volunteers and cold hard cash to fellow producers in crisis. Volunteers bringing loads of hay and supplies traveled hundreds of miles, coming from states like Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and many more.

Organizations and Facebook pages like Wildfire & Disaster Relief Ag Community, Ashes to Ashes, Kansas Livestock Association and countless others jumped in to help and are continuing to aid in the relief efforts.

Wildfire & Disaster Relief Ag Community and Ashes to Ashes have been connecting people who want to give and deliver donations to the affected community. The Kansas Livestock Association has raised over $1.6 million for wildfire and severe storm relief. The donated funds came from 1,402 individuals and companies and will be used to help livestock producers rebuild.

The list of volunteers and fire relief contributors is long, none helping for recognition, but simply because it is just the right thing to do. MKC member-owner, Ryan Barta, a third-generation farmer from Little River, Kansas, felt called to serve, choosing to make his operation a fire donation collection site.

“I know how hard it is to farm today, without disaster,” Barta says. “I’ve had friends go through disasters and know what it takes to get going again. A bunch of us got together and donated supplies and asked companies to donate as well.”

MKC Strategic Account Manager, Lauren Liggett, helped to facilitate a supply donation from MKC. Which was delivered to Barta’s farm and collection site, adding to the supplies already accumulating from the local community and beyond.
The donations were brought to Bar S Ranch, which has been serving as a large donation collection and community dispersal site since the fire. Bar S Ranch was one of many operations that was ravaged in the Four County Fire.

“The supplies we brought out there were not for just one person, we make sure our donations go to the entire community,” Barta says. “That’s what we’re here for, to help out the community.”

During the drop-off, Barta explains that he has never seen fire damage like the Four County Fire.
“I’ve seen smaller scale fires before, but nothing like this,” Barta says. “It was mile after mile of black and it was impossible to tell if you were looking at a pasture or field. The ditches were full of dirt and the soil will continue to blow away until green-up.”

The blackened landscaped, stripped of vegetation, is only a temporary scar from the wildfire. But until conditions are right for seed germination, soil will continue to blow away and fill ditches with precious topsoil. Fire victims are in a waiting game for spring weather and moisture, and they can’t come soon enough.

In a world of uncertainty, one thing producers can be sure of is the strong community of fellow agriculturists that will be there to lend a hand and bring hope in the face of tragedy.

“The farming community knows how much hard work it takes to make a living,” Barta says. “Most farmers have been through some kind of disaster. In those times we rely on our family, neighbors and community to get through it.”

Written by: Shelby Berens, communications specialist