There are people who you come across in life who just seem to go above and beyond what is expected. From the first time I interacted with Carrie Chestnut Mess (aka @DairyCarrie on Twitter), I knew she wasn’t going to fit into some nice little box. I’m guessing that’s part of the reason I figured we’d be friends! I finally met her in real life a couple of weeks ago at the AgChat Foundation Conference in Nashville. She got there early enough on Sunday to really make an impression…. she had 40 lbs of Wisconsin cheese for the swap meet I arranged (I still need to do a post on the bounty of goodness I got out of that!)
But a week ago, I saw Carrie throwing around the idea of getting people together to send hay to farmers in Oklahoma and Texas. And in the week or so that’s passed, she’s shown incredible progress. You can read the press release that announced the hay drive here. Knowing lots of people in Oklahoma and Texas who have had a bad time with the drought, I’ve been tracking the hay drive & encouraging her. And it has really come together! So I asked if she would write a guest post for me. I’m thrilled to share this with you.
Each Sunday our church offers prayers for the community. It works like this, if you’re the organized and efficient type that gets to church early enough to write the reason for prayer on the list that is that. However if you are me and apparently most of the other people in my church, Pastor Mark reads the list of prayer requests and then ask if there are any other prayers anyone would like to add, never fails that at least five hands will shoot up. Maybe the opening hymn reminded them of a prayer they wanted said or maybe something else kept them from writing it down ahead of time, whatever the cause there is always a long list of prayers added.
Two Sundays ago I was listening to the prayers and was surprised when one of our church members who I had classified in the “city” group of my brain raised his hand and asked that we all pray for those affected by the drought in Texas and Oklahoma. Now I wasn’t surprised in the least that someone asked for those prayers to be said but I was surprised that it didn’t come out of my own mouth. Our town is a small town outside of Madison. Many members are the children and grandchildren of farmers but very few live or work on the farm. For some reason, I didn’t realize that people outside of the everyday agriculture world knew of the problems ranchers were facing down south. We said our prayers and went on our way off to do the things you do on a Sunday after church.
Except that all day, I kept thinking about that prayer request, it was stuck going around in my brain. First, that I had been wearing blinders to the fact others were aware of something in “my” world. Especially frustrating to me since my goal is to reach out to those that aren’t on the farm everyday and help them to realize what farmers and ranchers face each day…. DUH CARRIE! Second, I felt compelled to do something to help. I keep hearing about cattle ranchers selling their entire herd of cows because they simply can’t get feed. I pictured myself in their shoes, watching my cattle go to auction because I was helpless to fight Mother Nature. As the day went on and my gears kept spinning I came up with part of a plan.
I am organizing a “hay drive” like a food drive but instead of collecting ramen noodles and cans of three bean salad, I am going to collect big square bales of hay because cows don’t like three bean salad. Then I am going to magically transport these bales of much needed feed to the worst areas over 1,000 miles from my doorstep. I told my husband my grand, very loosely formed plan, and he grunted at me. Not exactly the warm feeling I was looking for, but he has since warmed up to the idea, slightly. Sometimes it takes a while for him to see my genius ideas in the same rose colored light that I see. He tends to see the practical things like how in the world am I going to get several thousand pounds of hay to Oklahoma. However as I continue to work my lists of contacts things are falling into place.
Getting the hay, no problem. I have every confidence in the world that our neighbors and friends will step up to the challenge to donate a few bales of hay especially since we’ve had a great crop in our area. I don’t believe this is the case just because we have full barns but because I know that the people I am asking are the kind of people that care. I was able to reach out via Facebook to some family that I have in Oklahoma that are active in the ag community there and they have agreed to help me out on that end getting the hay to those who need it most.
Once I got this together, I went to the owners of the equipment dealership where I work and asked them if they could help. And they did. Without a concern for cost or for time they said yes. I was blown away. Dan, one of the owners gave me some contacts in the trucking industry and all of a sudden Dart Hay Service was there offering to take a load down for cost of fuel. This week I sent out a press release, hoping a few people would promise to say a word or two. Yesterday I did a radio interview, took photos for the newspaper and today our local TV station came out to do a story. And the hay? Its starting to come in! As I knew it would.
I feel good doing this, and I wonder if this is why that prayer was sent up on Sunday. I feel blessed to be a person that can do this, to have wonderful contacts that help spread the word, to work for a company that cares and to be surrounded by farm friends that know we are all in this together. Last night before bed my husband gave me a kiss goodnight and said “you’re doing a really good thing.” I wasn’t in this for me to feel good in the end, but man, I feel good.
If you would like to feel good yourself and help relieve some pressure on ranchers in Oklahoma and Texas please go to www.facebook.com/waupunequipment
You can see the news story “Area Farmers Donate Hay For Southern Counterparts” about the hay drive that ran on the Madison, WI television channel 3000 on Friday. The video of Carrie and of a local farmer is awesome!
Carrie started by thinking how one truckload would be great — she has the truck and hay is coming in, just need to be sure they can cover fuel costs. And she’s already focusing on the next loads! Please give it a look and see if you can lend a hand. It’s a great way to volunteer and know you are making a difference. If you don’t have hay to send, you could help cover the fuel costs. If this isn’t your volunteer project, what are you doing to make the world a better place?
Carrie Mess (@DairyCarrie) says
THANK YOU! For asking me to write this blog post and for the kind words. I truly appreciate it.
Mark Lathrop says
You’re an Angel, Carrie!
Mark Lathrop says
& thanks Janice…now I can steal the your chesse photo so I can give @DairyCarrie credit for her awesome swapmeet contribution. 🙂
She totally rocked the swap meet for days!
Becky McCray says
Thank you, Carrie, for what you are doing. And thank you, Janice, for sharing it. I’m in Oklahoma, not that far from where you plan to distribute. While we have a plan to bale some hay from our own pasture, too many others near us are not as fortunate. I’m thrilled to see someone take action to help.
Becky, you know how part of my heart stays in Oklahoma thanks to my 4 years of college there. I was thrilled when Carrie put her idea out in the social media world, but as I see it coming together, I have to say I’m struck by how much good one person can accomplish by reaching out to others with an idea. I love getting that reminder!
mona's caffe' (@mm98273) says
So wonderful to read good works in action! Unfortunately I can’t view the vid [rural ISP still dialup]. Thanks Carrie+team and Janice.
People helping people helping each other makes for a better world :-O
sidebar: Great post Janice!
Carrie and the people in her community TOTALLY ROCK!
Sidebar: I understand the rural dialup thing and have to say that I am more impressed than ever how much you do online!
Carrie Mess (@DairyCarrie) says
Ok, Im blushing…. Really I am! Its hard to get me to do that. Thank you all for the kind words. The way this has come together is amazing to me. I am so much in awe that I can hardly believe that its really happening.
Carrie Mess (@DairyCarrie) says
Here is a little update, today is the first full day of business since the story of our hay drive hit the air. The phone has started to ring! By this time tomorrow I suspect we will be well into filling our second load. FARMERS ROCK!
Shelley Lewis says
I just saw this article as I was searching the internet for any type of drought relief. We have approximately 80 dorper sheep, boer goats, and nubian goats. We are trying our best to not have to sell them all because of the drought. We are currently paying $150 for round bales and use at least 2 a month by carefully rationing it. I have found ads for round bales for $40-$60, but cannot afford to buy a whole load at one time and pay $2-3 per mile to get it down here (central Texas). Do you know of any kind of assistance we could get. We really don’t want to have to sell everything. Thanks
Shelley, I have shared your plea on my blog at http://jplovescotton.com/2011/09/14/drought-desperation-small-texas-farm/ as I understand you are not alone in needing solutions. I hope someone can help us see the way through this.
Lois Hutson says
thank u for everything ur doing. Where in Texas r u donating. I’m trying to find some for my parents. They don’t have money to pay for a truck load at a time and right now what they r buying they r having to feed. My parents have raised cattle for as long as i can remember. They r some of the ones selling out cause they can’t feed all. They r both in their 60’s and this is what keeps them going. I’m trying to find they some hay so they can keep some of their cattle. I have cattle myself but i can’t find good hay r priced where we aren’t being taken advantage of. Most of the people who r getting the hay in is selling it to make a profit. I guess as my dad always said this is where we seperate the men from the boys. well thanks again
Lois, The hay drive is being handled by Carrie — she set up a new blog since this all got underway. Check out http://www.dairycarrie.com. Since its an individual effort, she’s got small amounts going that way. Wish it could be more but I’m not sure what areas are getting it.