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Blog: Matt Reese

Ohio to Kansas photo highlights: Farmers helping farmers

March 2017

Ohioans got together through Facebook to lend a helping hand to the folks in need in Ashland, Kansas after devastating wildfires burned the area.

March 24

7 a.m: The BAV crew meets up at the Beck’s facility near London.

8:30 a.m: The crew congregated at a rest stop near the Indiana state line with media, more than 40 loads of hay, feed, fencing supplies, and other items to start the convoy west.

9 a.m. to after 7 p.m.: The convoy cruised due west on I-70 through some brutal crosswinds, a traffic jam or two and some rain showers.

7:19 p.m.: BAV crew arrived at the Kansas City Hotel (with the remainder of the Kansas City Group to follow) for a delicious dinner at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. The rest of the group continued on to Pratt about an hour out from Ashland.

March 25

7:45 a.m.: The groups fueled up for the last push for Ashland. There were a some blown tires, some trailer light repairs and a couple of bounced bales, but all safe and on their way with this truly fantastic crew of folks. The Adam Garman crew headed out from Ohio soon after.

10 a.m.: The Morrow County group was getting tired of tire troubles but the day was saved with some new tires (and a healthy dose of generosity) from Big O Tires in Gardener, Kansas. The Pratt crew arrived in Ashland and started the massive task of unloading the first wave of Ohio hay and supplies at area ranches and the feed mill and they begin planning the logistics for the supplies from the Kansas City crew.

Around noon: Kayla Worcester with the lead group posted on Facebook as they rolled into Minneola, Kansas: “There is nothing better than passing cars here in Kansas and they are clapping and honking and going crazy seeing us with hay! This is so humbling and I am so unbelievably blessed to have my husband and his good friends and the new friends we’ve made in the last 36 hours!”

Noon to 4:30: Ohio groups arrived and unloaded hay and supplies on area farms and drop-off locations. The BAV crew arrived and started tearing out burnt fence posts on the Rhoades Ranch outside of Ashland. Over 467,000 acres were burned and 4,130 miles of fence were destroyed in Clark County alone.

8 p.m.: Delicious dinner was provided by Minneola Community Church and then off to get some rest with our gracious host families.

March 26

7 a.m.: The group met at Paraiso Mexican Restaurant in Minneola for, honestly, the best breakfast burrito I have ever eaten. Seriously folks. Go there and get one. Then we traveled to Ashland Christian Service Camp that has been unbelievably gracious and instrumental in coordinating the work efforts of our group with the ranches who could use some help.

9 a.m.: My BAV group teamed up with some of the Morrow County group to go work on the ranch of John Kellenberger D.V.M. with Ashland Veterinary Center, Inc. John hasn’t been able to do much about the devastation on his ranch because he has been so busy helping others with their injured cattle and, unfortunately, the grim task of humanely euthanizing many animals in the area. Between our group and a group at another ranch, we tore out multiple miles of ruined barbed wire fence today so they can start the rebuilding process. Another group returned to the Rhoades Ranch to tear out fence posts. Our good friends at Minneola Community Church packed us delicious sack lunches to enjoy.

The air smelled like smoke and the ever-present Kansas wind filled our eyes, noses, ears and pores with the mix of fine soil particles and soot. Everything has a coat of black/brown dust. They desperately needed rain to jump start the grass into growing at least enough to hold the soil in place. A few days before our trip other volunteer work crews had to remain idle because fierce winds whipped up the dust to the point that it was not possible or healthy to work. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather (though a bit cold in the morning) to get work done. They even got a little rain shower in the evening in some parts of the county.

6:30: We reconvened at the church for dinner. What a great day spent in the company of so many kind-hearted and generous folks from Kansas and Ohio!

March 27

7 a.m.: My housemates and I said our goodbyes to our incredibly kind and gracious hosts, Jack and Suzie Woods from Minneola. We really enjoyed getting to know them during our brief stay. Then it was the same plan as the previous morning — delicious breakfast burritos and and the trip to the Ashland Christian Service Camp to get our work assignments.

9 a.m.: Today the whole Ohio group converged on one ranch and we tore out miles of barbed-wire fence before noon. This pasture was burnt completely bare in many areas. There is nothing living to hold the topsoil in many areas and without more rain, many fear the soil will blow away. The fires started near where we worked today and burned incredibly hot. We heard stories of guns melting in fireproof gun safes and coins melting together into a ball from the incredible heat from the fire created by the high winds that led to so many problems. We also heard about volunteer firefighters working to save the homes of others while their own homes burned and neighbors leaving their ranches to take the tractor to plow under the grass and create a fire barrier around homes and buildings. The Clark County community has really rallied but they have a long way to go. We had a great, efficient and hard working crew. Everyone was impressed how much our 24-person Ohio group got done so quickly at every ranch we visited. It should be noted, though, that the enormity of the work that needs done is incredible. This will take years for the community to recover from and we could stay and tear out fence for months and still not get it all done. The need for help with labor in Clark County Kansas will be there for a long time.

1:00 p.m.: The Adam Garman group from Southern Ohio rolled into Ashland, Kansas with more hay, feed and supplies as the BAV crew was eating sacked lunches and packing up to leave for home.

1:30 p.m.: On the road again for what is hopefully a safe journey for all. More groups from Ohio are making plans to go West, wire cutters in hand!

Photos by Sara Tallmadge and Matt Reese.

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Author: Matt Reese

I grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio and spent most of my youth writing, doodling, taking pictures, reading and exploring the surrounding farmland. With a family full of teachers, I also grew up around a culture supportive of education. I was active in athletics in high school before graduating from Ohio State University where I studied agricultural communications. This led to my career in agricultural journalism.

I continue to work on the family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. I married my wonderful wife, Kristin, in 2002. We live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. We have a daughter Campbell Miriam who was born in the fall of 2007 and a son Parker Matthew born in August of 2009. We are active in our local church and with numerous other organizations. I help with the agricultural program at Ohio Christian University in Circleville as well.

I have worked for Ohio’s Country Journal since 1999. I also write a column for numerous newspapers around Ohio, Fresh Country Air and do freelance writing and photography work. I have written and self-published six books to date. To find my books, visit lulu.com and search for “Matt Reese.”

4 thoughts on “Ohio to Kansas photo highlights: Farmers helping farmers”

  1. Thanks

  2. Bless you all. Thank you for your generosity. Safe travels.

  3. Is another trip planned? We are small Licking county Ohio farmers gathering information for possible trip to Kansas to work. Please advise.Thanks !

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