York nonprofit brings flood-stricken Kentucky ranchers hay help

Harper Ho
York Dispatch

A local farm aid nonprofit plans to deliver approximately 150,000 pounds of donated hay to help Kentucky ranchers who are reeling from a flood that swept through the eastern part of the state earlier this month.

Heartland Agricultural Relief Team founder Jon Culp said 10 volunteers will drive nonstop Saturday from York County to Jackson in Breathitt County, Kentucky, and bring the goods with them in five trailers.

Jackson was one of the places in the region that was hit hard by a flash flood March 1, which left a mess after the high waters receded.

Following news of the flood's devastation, Culp said HART reached out through word of mouth to York County farmers for hay help and they answered.

"We want to get these guys' lives turned around quickly," Culp said. "Whatever it takes to help these guys out."

He said HART's purpose is to provide disaster relief to farmers, ranchers and small agricultural businesses in any way possible.

HART became a nonprofit in March 2019, and the organization has since been traveling throughout the country extending aid specifically to farmers.

Heartland Agricultural Relief Team (H.A.R.T.) volunteers Kiernan Buser, top, of Lower Windsor Township, and Levi Moritz, of Lower Windsor Township, secure hay bales to flatbed trailers in Lower Windsor Township, Friday, March 19, 2021. The nonprofit group will deliver the donated hay bales to Kentucky to aid farmers who have suffered loss due to flooding. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"When these floods happen, everybody concentrates on the little towns because that's were the population is. Nobody helps the farmers out much; that's why we concentrate on the farmers," Culp said.

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Culp said volunteers will unload the goods at a drop-off site near Jackson before driving back home. He said the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will distribute the hay to area farmers.

John Nantz with Owensboro Public Works walks along the boat dock at Peter B. English Park while he and a crew work to clean up debris from the Ohio River from recent flooding, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Owensboro, Ky.   (Greg Eans/The Messenger-Inquirer via AP)

The relief effort doesn't stop there for HART. Culp said he and a few volunteers will go to Jackson on April 9 for seven days to help farmers with cleanup and repair and to "pretty much get their lives put back together." 

Fences, for example, will need to be fixed because debris wipes them out, he said.

One of the farmers HART is expecting to help first is an elderly man whose farm was completely destroyed by the flood, Culp said.

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Culp said HART volunteers, who have jobs of their own and use vacation days to work with HART, usually work from dawn to dusk to clean up the farms, fields and pastures, and to make repairs.  

"Once we get one farm done, we move to the next," he said. "We just keep working at it till it's time to go home."

Coordination was done through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association, according to Culp.

Area police and firefighters escort Heartland Agricultural Relief Team (H.A.R.T.) as they depart from Samuel S. Lewis State Park in Lower Windsor Township, Friday, March 19, 2021. The group will deliver donated hay and other supplies to farmers who have suffered loss due to flooding. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The nonprofit has been struggling with finding monetary donations, he said, noting a trip like the one planned for April 9 can cost upward of $3,000 for gas, lodging, equipment rentals and other expenses.

Culp said those wishing to help can donate or volunteer at https://hartpa.org/.

Scott Wedding, from left, Hugh Wedding and Jim Morris, look out over the Ohio River rom Peter B. English Park as debris accumulates along the edge of the park and boat ramp from flooding, Tuesday, Mar. 9, 2021, in Owensboro, Ky. The National Weather Service in Paducah has issued a flood warning for the Ohio River through late Wednesday night.  (Greg Eans/The Messenger-Inquirer via AP)