By Amelia Kent
For much of the past month I’ve either been studying forecasts and models trying to learn the latest cone of uncertainty for Harvey and Irma, or glued to the news reports coming from Texas and Louisiana in the wake of Harvey. If you’re remotely involved in agriculture, my guess is you’ve been doing the same; catching a glance while hurriedly harvesting what you can, or maybe helping neighbors get their crops out, and preparing the best you can. Given that in the last year nearly all of our state experienced flooding, we are empathetic for those now affected by this latest natural disaster.
The continued coverage coming out of Texas is staggering, but the pictures I’ve received from friends in southwestern Louisiana, as well as posts I’ve seen on social media about Harvey’s impact on Louisiana’s farming and ranching community, are heartbreaking. Many of us have similar personal experiences recently, so we understand the challenges so many are facing.
A week after Harvey left destruction in his wake, I had the opportunity to visit good friends in Cameron Parish to see how the water impacted their farm. They received nearly 30” of rain in two days and water from further north was flowing through their property down to the Gulf of Mexico. During the visit, I received a lesson on the hydrology of the area in the form of a field trip. We took a side-by-side through their hayfield inundated with a foot of water to get to the mud boat. Once in the boat, we launched into an overfilled drainage ditch to go check their cattle, who were content and grazing on the levees. When I quizzed my friends about their needs, they were very humble and declared as long as the water keeps flowing they were in good shape.
In the midst of this devastation, there is a refreshing, beautiful sight. The sense of community in this time of urgent need is, quite simply, amazing. A friend in south Texas texted me that his family was safe, their livestock fared well, but they sustained a great deal of damage. Yet, this same friend is facilitating pet and horse feed donations through his feed store and is coordinating cooking camps and food delivery efforts in the small towns surrounding his family’s ranch. A childhood friend of mine called me asking if I knew where hay was needed and that he already has two semi-loads of hay heading to Wharton, Texas. He is anxious to help any way he can, and fits hay loads into an already-busy schedule.
The Louisiana Farm Bureau’s Livestock Advisory Committee restarted its hay clearinghouse after members learned the desperate need to feed stranded cattle. In spite of slim hay supplies this soggy year, we immediately began receiving hay donations from across Louisiana. With the help of our extension agents in affected areas, we were better able to pinpoint urgent needs and help get hay to critical situations. Other connections with semi-trucks have become the life savers as they are transporting donated hay across the state. Witnessing the generosity of farmers, haulers and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture come together in an orchestrated, collective effort is heart-warming. Though these efforts are selfless, hearing the sheer gratitude in the voices of the farmers who received help is priceless.
As our society seems more divisive with each passing day, observing the strong sense of community as farmers and ranchers unite in the time of need is certainly inspiring. Farmers’ and ranchers’ tenacity is one of the most beautiful traits, and is also part of what makes our kind unique. In times like these, we’re not down and out, we’re just letting the water flow through and eventually go down.
Amelia Kent and her husband, Russell, raise beef cattle and hay in East Feliciana Parish. Amelia is a past chair of Louisiana’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, is currently a member of the - Partners in Advocacy Leadership program with AFBF, and serves on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Find them on Facebook at Kent Farms; or on Instagram and Twitter @kentfarms_la.