SD rancher coordinates hay donations, trucking for Kansas fire victims
March 22, 2017
South Dakota rancher Jeb Olbertson is doing his part to help victims of recent wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.
Olbertson has organized truckers and ranchers wanting to donate hay, putting them together and taking the supplies to areas that need it most.
He has been coordinating with Jeff Kay at Ashland Feed and Seed in Ashland, Kan., to get the donations where they're needed the most. Clark County, Kansas, was hardest hit in fires that began March 6 and burned 461,000 acres in that county alone. The area around Ashland was hardest hit, but a total of 833,941 acres was burned in Kansas and Oklahoma, 325,000 acres in Texas and 30,000 acres in Colorado.
Olbertson said ranchers are aware that they could be disaster victims at any time; some have been.
"I've got a trucker that's leaving with a load later this week that heard it on the radio, Olbertson said. "He lost 200 fall calving heifers in the Atlas Blizzard a few years ago. He had to take bankruptcy and almost got divorced. He's been driving a truck ever since. Internet is not in his budget anymore, but when he heard about us on the radio, he got on his flip phone and called to say he wanted to haul a load. That's the kind of thing people are doing."
"We had a kid call from Missouri, 16 years old. He's got a 24-year-old pickup and a flatbed trailer and he wants us to load him up with stuff to take where it's needed.
"My little neighbor girl is 8 years old. Yesterday she brought me $8.48."
He said producers who need hay in Kansas should call Kay at Ashland Feed and Seed. Producers in other states can call their cattlemen's association or Farm Bureau to coordinate with Olbertson. Contacting Olbertson on the established Facebook page is best, so he has a record of their information, making it easier to coordinate.
Olbertson said he needs local contacts to get the hay to the right place.
"Early on my son took a load (of hay) to Hutchinson, Kan., because they contacted me on Facebook and said they needed it. When he got there, there was no hay around and all the guys had to unload it was a little garden tractor that wouldn't even reach to the top row. He just didn't unload. That's when we knew we needed local contacts.
"We've sent most to Kansas cause we're on a shoestring budget for trucking and they were hardest hit, but we'll try to coordinate to anywhere."
To donate hay or trucking, search for SD High Plains Fire Relief on Facebook, call Jeff Kay at Ashland Feed and Seed, (620) 635-2856, your local cattlemen's association or Farm Bureau.
"I was talking to a friend of mine in Oklahoma City and I thought he put it best," Olbertson said. "He said 'it's neat to see God using you as one of his fingers moving his stuff around.' I thought that was pretty good."
Olbertson had to cut the interview short because "I've got a call coming in from Minnesota about trucking right now. I better take this." ❖