HENRYVILLE, Ind. — A diverse team of farmers and future farmers, and people who just want to help, is making a difference in south central Indiana, where March 2 tornados left dozens dead and caused millions of dollars in damage.
John Adams, the rapid response coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Farmers International, said volunteers and officials have been on the ground since the storm, and are still assessing damage and who needs helped most.
“They’re hurting big time; they just don’t want to lay it out to you,” he said.
Adams estimates the tornado cut a path about 58 miles long, causing major structural damage and dropping trees over onto fences.
The farms west of Henryville, he said, are primarily rolling hills with beef and horse farms, while east of the town, it’s mostly grain farms.
He said most of the major debris has been picked up, but there’s still fence to mend and buildings to repair.
Alan Morrow and two other farmers from Covington, Ohio, in Miami County — Duane Apple and Dan Batdorf — spent a day-and-a-half helping with cleanup. They would have liked to have spent more time, but needed to return to their own farms, where it’s about time to begin field work and spring planting.
“That’s kind of the issue of farmers going down there right now — they’re all busy,” he said.
Still, even a few days of help can make a big difference. Morrow said it’s simply too much work for some of these farmers in Indiana to do on their own, amidst their other chores and the stress they’ve suffered.
“The owner of a farm just can’t make too much progress on (his own),” Morrow said. “They can work for weeks and it doesn’t look like they’ve made much headway on it. It’s like trying to build a pyramid on your own.”
The men are from the same church — Fields of Grace — a name Morrow said seemed fitting for the work they’re doing to help.
Those affected also are getting help from local FFA students, and FFA members from across the state who are working together with the local FFA.
Danielle Walker, the FFA teacher Scottsburg High School — has committed her 60 students to helping, along with the school’s FFA officer team.
The students are helping to coordinate donations of hay and straw, grain and other resources. To date, they’ve received about 2,000 square bales of hay, 100 round bales, 160 square bales of straw and about three tons of feed. Cash donations have amounted to $3,400.
The students also have received some donations through companies like Cargill, and Monsanto has reportedly provided a shower trailer for volunteer workers to get cleaned up during their stay.
Walker said the school has approved about a day and a half for field trip time, so students can travel to the farms and deliver the goods. The rest of the work is done in evenings and during weekends.
Although they’ve had some time off from class work, students are still learning a lot about cooperation, coordination and resource management.
“I think that some of the most basic things we need to learn in life can’t be taught in the classroom,” she said. “This is real life.”
Officials estimate the work and need will continue for months, but said they are making sure the immediate needs are covered, like keeping livestock fed and restoring their enclosures to a suitable condition.
“We’ll be there long term,” Adams said. “We just try to keep a crew moving all the time.”
Walker said in some cases it makes more sense for an individual to send money, so they can buy hay and grain locally, as opposed to trying to truck small loads long distances.
Farmers and anyone who wants to help should contact one of the coordinating agencies, such as Fellowship of Christian Farmers International, so they can be sure their efforts do the most good.
Adams said the focus will be those most in need, and that coordination is key to making sure that happens. He’s learned a lot just by talking to area farmers.
“They can feel the pulse of one another fairly well,” he said.