SALEM, Ohio — “Amazing”, “incredible” and “sad” is how Sarah Duma Birtch described the 1,200-mile trip to Ashland, Kansas, in late March to take relief supplies to ranchers hit by wildfires that swept through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Colorado and Kansas in early March, killing thousands of cattle and horses.
“I didn’t really have any idea what we were getting into,” said Birtch. Her brother, Daniel Duma, organized the trip from Duma Meats, in Portage County, and Birtch’s husband, Bryan, had planned to drive a truck.
“I told my husband, ‘if you’re going, I’m going too’.” So with Birtch as her husband’s copilot, and kids in tow, they left with a convoy of over 40 trucks, in the early morning hours of March 24, to join with a larger crew of over 50 Ohioans headed for Ashland Feed and Seed, in Clark County, Kansas.
“The drive itself was amazing,” being a part of that convoy, she said. Upon their arrival in Kansas, Birtch said it started to get a little emotional.
“We saw the warning signs ‘Wildfire Damage Ahead’, and didn’t really know what to expect,” she said. “There was just black ground — burned telephone poles and fence posts.” Some cleanup had started and Birtch said there were piles of rusted barbed wire and what was left of barns lying in heaps of wood scraps and rubble.
“It was really sad, but it was amazing to meet the people,” she said. Once they arrived at Ashland Feed and Seed, they were given a farmer’s contact information and sent to deliver their loads in person.
“That made it real.” The family Birtch and her husband visited had lost 75 percent of their land and some cattle, and they were in desperate need of rain.
After the Ohioans left Kansas, the farm owner found Birtch on Facebook, and sent a picture of the rain falling on his farm. His prayers had been answered and they were starting the rebuilding process, said Birtch.
“It was incredible.”
Brittany Basinger, from Portage County, was unable to make the first trip, so she and her fiance, Travis Hamlin, thought of making a trip themselves, when she called the Dumas to see if anyone was interested in making another trip. Now, according to Birtch, the Dumas anticipate around 50 trucks leaving Duma Meats April 21 for round two of wildfire relief efforts.
“Personally, I grew up in the city, but to see all those farmers and ranchers working every day, putting their sweat and blood into it — when I found out about those farmers losing it all in those wildfires, it hurt me too,” said Basinger.
Basinger works for Centerra Co-op, in Alliance, and asked her employer if the cooperative would be able to assist the efforts. Centerra agreed to accept any monetary donations toward fencing supplies that will be delivered with the Duma convoy.
“It’s a nice way for people that are not familiar with farming and want to know how they can help, but are not sure what to get,” said Birtch. For a $5 donation to any Centerra Co-op, a T-post can be purchased.
Birtch said donations for fuel and supplies will also be accepted at Duma Meats in Mogadore. Donations will be accepted until April 20, the day before the group leaves.
“We would really love prayers for the drivers’ safety,” said Birtch. “Anything can happen in 1,200 miles.”
How to help
Donations for fuel and supplies for the Duma’s trip will be accepted until April 20: cash and checks will be accepted at Portage Community Bank in Kent and Ravenna. Checks should be payable to “Rancher’s Wildfire Relief” and mailed to Portage Community Bank, 1311 E. Main St. Ravenna, OH 44266, or 1532 S. Water St., Kent, OH 44240.
Checks will also be accepted at Duma Meats Farm Market, 857 Randolph Road, Mogadore, OH 44260.
Contact any Centerra Co-op to make a donation. $5 purchases a T-post.
Or call Brittany Basinger at 330-281-2860 for more information.
Other donations can be sent to:
- Ashland Feed and Seed, 1975 County Road U, Ashland, KS 67831; 620-635-2856
- Meade Co-op, P.O. Box 220, Meade, KS 67864; 602-873-2161
- Country Feeds, 11205 US Highway 56, Montezuma, KS 67867; 800-711-6092