Virginia farmers join forces to help wildfire victims
Members of more than 40 county Farm Bureaus in Virginia have donated nearly $44,000 to assist fellow farmers affected by destructive wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. The recent fires swept through an estimated 1.5 million acres, killed seven people and destroyed homes, cattle and livelihoods.
Beth Bays, secretary of the Bedford County Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee, helped spearhead that county’s relief efforts.
“It was heartbreaking to see stories about the devastating wildfires. We wanted to do something to help,” Bays explained. “Once we put out the word, donations came in from everywhere.”
Bedford Farm Bureau donated $2,000 for materials to rebuild fences that were charred by the fire, but their efforts didn’t end there.
“Six of us from the Bedford County Farm Bureau ended up going to Ashland, Kansas,” Bays said. “We drove a trailer loaded with barbed wire and fence posts. Then we spent several days tearing down burned fences and rebuilding miles of new ones.”
Bays said it was difficult to understand the amount of destruction until she saw it. What used to be ranchland dotted with herds of cattle had been reduced to ashes.
“Everything was black as far as we could see. Every fence was gone,” she described. All that was left were shells of burned houses, trees and tractors. “These people lost everything.”
That loss motivated others as well.
Bob Threewitts, a Rockingham County Farm Bureau board member, was touched by the plight of those affected by wildfires, and Rockingham Farm Bureau donated $1,000 to the Kansas Livestock Foundation.
“We’ve been blessed with bountiful seasons for several years. It’s hard to understand what they’re going through, but we hope it helped a little bit,” he reflected.
Not only have ranchers lost most of their cattle, but the livestock that survived have no grazing land. Threewitts explained that KLF will give affected areas 100 percent of donations toward the purchase of hay, fencing materials and replacement animals.
Wythe County Farm Bureau also donated $1,000 for wildfire relief, but County President Nate Akers said he would like to see more attention given to the dire situation in the affected areas.
“Agriculture is a lifetime investment,” Akers said. “It’s hard to replace everything, but we hope Wythe’s donation helps a little bit. We also hope we won’t have to face a similar situation here; but if we do, we hope they would recognize the need.”
Other county Farm Bureaus that have donated include Amherst, Augusta, Bland, Botetourt, Brunswick, Campbell, Carroll, Culpeper, Cumberland, Floyd, Fluvanna, Franklin, Frederick, Giles, Grayson, Highland-Bath, King George, Lee, Loudoun, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, Montgomery, Nottoway, Page, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Prince William-Fairfax, Rockbridge, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth, Southampton, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Tazewell, Warren, Washington, Westmoreland, and Wise-Dickenson.
“The outpouring of support has not slowed down, but there is still much to do. It’s only the beginning for these ranchers to restore their livelihoods,” Bays noted.