GILMAN, Minn. (WCCO) — At the Gilman Creamery in central Minnesota, relief is stacked in long rows — bales of donated hay, set to be loaded and delivered to cattle ranchers more than 800 miles away.
In early March, drought and driving winds swept wildfires across huge swaths of Oklahoma and Kansas, scorching more than 700,000 acres of grazing and crop land and killing thousands of heads of beef cattle.READ MORE: Snow Plow Struck By Gunfire After Collision In Minneapolis
“Not only are they losing homes, barns and fencing, but cattle, their livestock,” said Gilman-area poultry farmer Pattie Bixby.
When she learned of the devastation, Bixby and fellow farmers began organizing a massive Minnesota relief effort.
“We’re fellow farmers, and it’s not a state thing – we know how devastating it is to lose a farm,” Bixby said.
Many of the herds were so badly burned and injured that ranchers had no choice but to put the prized livestock down. Other herds were left without food when at least 40 ranches and homes were destroyed in Kansas alone.
Minnesota farmers and companies are stepping up to help. Donations of hay and farming supplies are pouring into the creamery collection point, ready to be shipped to those in need.
Truckloads of hay have already been delivered to Kansas ranchers, desperate for feed.READ MORE: Mark Bell Charged With Fatally Shooting Girlfriend In St. Paul
One of those donating his trucks and fuel is James Trantina, a Collins Brothers Towing operator.
“I heard about the fire but didn’t know how bad it was,” Trantina said.
Now he is helping organize other trucking companies to join in the relief effort. Dozens of trucks and semi-trailers will head to Kansas on Saturday to deliver tons of hay and supplies.
“I don’t have hay to donate and I’m not a farmer, so I’m donating trucking,” Trantina said. “We have five trucks with trailers, so I’ll donate that to get the hay down there.”
More than $90,000 worth of hay has already been donated, not to mention the $30,000 value of fencing, posts and supplies packed for delivery. Still, it will take many more deliveries to get ranchers back on their feet.
Saturday’s relief caravan is scheduled to meet at the Gilman Creamery at 7 a.m., when trucks will be loaded and dispatched.
Donations of farming supplies and household items are still encouraged. There is also a need for monetary donations to help defray the $34,000 in fuel costs for the caravan.MORE NEWS: Minnesota Groups Unite To Oppose Recreational Marijuana Legalization
If you would like to help with donated supplies or monetary support to defray fuel expenses, contact Bixby at (320) 515-9656 or at https://www.facebook.com/pbixby3.