By ELAINE STARNER
MILLERSBURG, Ohio — Mennonite Disaster Service has issued a letter to churches in its network east of the Mississippi River requesting help for dairy farmers affected by the severe drought.
MDS, a non-profit network within the Anabaptist churches in North America, organizes volunteers who want to assist in cleanup and rebuilding after areas are struck by floods, tornados, fire and other disasters. Their Eastern Ohio/Western Pa. unit has now called for help for dairy farmers who can no longer feed their herds due to the lack of pasture.
Farmers in the tri-county area of Tuscarawas, Holmes and Wayne counties who have been hit the hardest by the drought are those who practice “intensive grazing,” relying largely on grasses for milk production.
The majority of these farmers are Amish, many in the Mount Hope area, and some are now faced with the decision of whether to sell their herds which they can no longer feed by grazing, or else buy hay.
This means hay normally stored for the winter months is already being fed; as a result of this early and heavier demand, the price of hay has more than doubled, going from $150-$200 a ton to $400 or more. MDS is requesting donations of either hay or funds that will help farmers defray the cost of buying hay.
Wyman and Marie Miller, MDS secretary/treasurer of the Eastern Ohio/Northwest Pa. Unit, are coordinating donations. They work with Ken Gerber of Millersburg and Lester Schlabach of Mount Hope, who oversee the distribution of the donated hay.
The MDS network produces quick response. On July 26, letters requesting assistance were sent out to all units east of the Mississippi River. By noon of the next day, the first answer came: Macon, Miss., sent word that 540 bales of hay, an entire semi load, would be donated. A ProVia truck had just made a delivery to the Birmingham, and it detoured to Mississippi, picked up the hay, and brought it back to Ohio.
Another call soon came from Vermont; ten acres of hay will be available there. Areas that have experienced their own disasters and the subsequent service and assistance of MDS volunteers are now among the first responders to this call for help.
Those who need help feeding their dairy cows this summer or those who want to donate hay or funds to help dairy farmers of this community can contact Wyman and Marie Miller at 330-893-2866 (preferred) or 330-231-8732.
Contributions can be sent to Wyman Miller, 5452 TR 377, Millersburg, OH 44654. Make checks payable to MDS Hay Fund.