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Ohioans recognized for wildfire relief efforts

The Midwestern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (MASDA) held their annual conference in Ohio last week. Ag leaders from all over the Midwest gathered to talk about tough issues facing their respective states and allow for some brainstorming and idea sharing from neighboring states to tackle those issues.

This also allowed for some of the states that dealt with a tremendous amount of wildfire devastation this spring to extend their debt of gratitude to those that traveled long distances and took many days to help out those in need. Greg and Rose Hartschuh from Bucyrus were recognized for their efforts in gathering a crew of good Samaritans for a trip to Ashland County, Kansas — one of the hardest hit areas of the wildfires.

“When we started this project is was all about what can we do right now to help, being acknowledged for heading west never crossed our minds,” Rose Hartschuh said. “It was really neat to see all of the states come together as an industry. We played just one small piece in that so it is an honor to be able to accept the appreciation for everyone else that was a part of that project too.”

After a couple of trips to southwest Kansas, the more than 1,000 miles separating the farmers in Ohio and in Kansas doesn’t seem so far.

“The efforts made by farmers from Ohio and other states just shows that even though we all may have different crops or animals that we’re raising, we all have the same goals and desire to help one another,” Hartschuh said. “The next time we head out it will be to visit some new friends and we certainly hope they will come to see our farm someday as well.”

That feeling of agriculture being one big family was something echoed at the conference by the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

“All the time as I was growing up if you had a neighbor in trouble, you lent a hand,” David Daniels said. “Kansas isn’t exactly a neighbor but nevertheless they are still producers and still our brothers and sisters and farmers across Ohio loaded up and took time out of very busy schedules and gave farmers the aid that they needed.”

In early March, Kansas alone lost 1.3 million acres of grassland, 30 homes and thousands of miles of fence due to wildfires. Months later, the grasslands are recovering and greening up nicely, but the structural things that were destroyed are taking more time to replace. Help from farmers like the Hartschuhs continues the long process of rebuilding.

“I don’t think they can underestimate what they did for our state,” said Susan Metzger, assistant secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. “They are helping us rebuild and helping us recover and more importantly restoring our faith in humanity by really showing the kindness of farmers from all over the country.”

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