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Local group sends hay and supplies to Kansas farmers hit hard by fires
hay haulers
HELPING OTHER FARM-ERS was the order of the day in late March for these local volunteer drivers, which included, from left, David Smiley, Matt Kearns, Ian Dudenbostel, Derek Petersheim, Evan Dudenbostel and Luke Ad-ams. The men were part of a group that worked to deliver donated hay and other supplies to some Kansas farmers who were devastated when wildfires swept through their county in the first week of March.

The Dudenbostels, from rural Seneca, played a large role in the local effort to help Kansas farmers who were devastated when wildfires swept through the Plains in the first week of March.

A group of farmers, area residents and businesses combined to send hay, cash donations and fencing supplies to Kansas.

Several local farmers donated hay. They included Donny, Ian and Evan Dudenbostel, Dudenbostel Family Farms, Seneca, Ralph and Derek Petersheim, Welsh Edge Farms, Viroqua, and Tom and Beth Kearns Farms, Seneca.

“I am shocked at how little I heard about this huge disaster on the local news, but I read about it in a farm publication, and knew I wanted to do something to help,” Tom Kearns said.

Kerns knew the “Dudenbostel boys” had a semi. So, he offered to donate hay if they would drive.

“I wanted to help – that’s just what farmers do, help other farmers,” Kearns explained.

Ralph Petersheim was also shocked that such a huge disaster in farm country received so little news coverage.

“I’m very frustrated with the national news – this is a major deal,” Petersheim said.

Petersheim always loved to read to his kids from the series of books, ‘Hank the Cowdog,’ written by Mark Erickson of Texas. A friend saw a story in the aftermath of the fires about how Erickson’s farm had been destroyed in the fires in Texas, and forwarded it to his friend.

“That was the first I heard about all of this, and I knew I wanted to do something to help,” Petersheim shared. “I heard from my old friend Don Dudenbostel that a load of hay was going down, and I called Don and said if you’ll drive, I’ll donate hay.”

Petersheim’s daughter saw one of the convoys coming out of Michigan that was being escorted by state troopers. Petersheim told his daughter, “the news these days is always bad, there’s so much unhappiness and strife, but when I hear about something like this, I know that we’re still America. We’re still helping each other.”

Petersheim explained his enthusiasm for participating in the relief effort,

“I’ve been on the receiving end, and it’s what the Lord asked me to do,” Petersheim said. “I believe that humans need to take care of each other.”

A heck of a run

The Dudenbostel brothers, Ian and Evan, Seneca Derek Petersheim, Viroqua, Matt Kearns, Seneca along with Gays Mills residents Luke Adams and David Smiley, loaded up two semi-loads of hay on Wednesday, March 29, and delivered the hay to Ashland Feed & Seed in Ashland, Kansas on Thursday, March 30.

“It was a heck of a run,” Adams said late Thursday afternoon. “We unloaded this morning, turned it around, and have already put on 850 miles since midnight.”

Adams drove a semi loaned for the effort by Dairyland Transportation of Boaz, and Dudenbostel drove a semi owned by his family.

Joe Hall, owner of Dairyland Transportation, donated the use of the tractor and trailer, and also donated a fuel card to pay for the fuel for the trip.

“I was surprised and grateful when Joe gave me the fuel card,” Adams reported. “That was really going above and beyond to support this effort!”

Evan Dudenbostel accompanied the two semis in a pickup truck, pulling a trailer loaded with donated and purchased fencing materials, and brought along some cash donations as well.

“It was a good time,” Evan Dudenbostel recounted. “It was a lot of fun.”

Evan shared that his family first learned of the crisis when his wife’s uncle, Ralph Petersheim, contacted them.

Dudenbostel saw thousands of acres that were burnt by the fire. Residents of Ashland told him that 4,100 miles of fencing had been destroyed.

“They were very glad down there about the recent rains,” Dudenbostel said. “It really chippered everyone up.

“We did what we did because if we were in the same situation, we’d really appreciate it,” Dudenbostel added. “They would do it for us.”

Dudenbostel wanted to be sure to thank all of the area businesses that donated to the effort.

Allan and Samantha Morvits, Bart and Amy Mitchell, Don and Kim Dudenbostel, Gale and Cheryl Beneker, Gary Lorenz, Mike and Heather Metzler and Swede Knutson donated toward fencing supplies, diesel and feed.

Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative donated old power poles, cut to size, as part of the donation of fencing materials.

Other area businesses that supported the relief effort were Johnson’s One Stop, R&S Welding, Spring Creek Cattle and Walsh’s Ace Hardware.

Charred but greening up

Record wildfires fueled by high winds burned well over 400,000 acres in multiple Kansas counties in the first week of March. Comanche and Clark counties were hard hit, with estimates of 3,000 to 9,000 head of cattle lost and over 85 percent of the land in the counties burned. The fires also impacted areas of Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and Colorado.

Seven people lost their lives, including three ranch hands in Texas who were attempting to move cattle out of the path of the fire.

“When we arrived, we were surprised to see the area was starting to green up as a result of recent rains,” Adams observed. “Nevertheless, the extent of the destruction was still obvious – you could see that the road was charred, and there was even less in the area than is typical. You can see some stumpy, blackened trees, and you can tell where houses used to be. You’ll occasionally see a blackened cement foundation, some twisted metal, or a burnt tractor.

“It might be greening up, which is a hopeful thing, but it looks like sand, and stinks like an old campfire pit,” Adams noted.

How to pitch in

Cash, donations of hay and fencing supplies are all part of the relief effort. Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association are leading the relief efforts in the state.

Checks can be mailed to the Kansas Livestock Foundation, 6031 SW 37th Street, Topeka, KS 66614, with ‘Fire Relief Fund’ written in the memo line. The Stockgrowers Bank of Ashland launched the relief fund with a donation of $25,000.

To donate hay, call Ashland Feed & Seed, 620-635-2856.

The USDA has announced that $6 million was made available by the NRCS through the EQIP program. The money is designated for local producers as they begin to restore scorched grazing land, rebuild fencing, protect damaged watersheds, and implement various conservation measures to mitigate losses.