Texas wildfires ravage Panhandle; donations sought

TRI-CITY AREA — With news of over one million acres being burned in a Texas Panhandle wildfire and points beyond, the inkling to lend a helping hand is once again starting to appear.

In 2017, a large group of farmers joined forces to help fellow agriculturists in the central part of the country, after ravaging wildfires reduced decades of farm living and a way-of-life to ashes.

The raging flames burned down privately owned family farmsteads, corporate farms, settlements that had been in the family for generations, all leveled.

Hundreds of thousands of charred acres were littered with livestock that had been trapped and burned alive. The fire took no prisoners; everything was reduced to a pile of ashes.

A short time after that devastation, farmers across the country began to see how they could help their brothers and sisters in farming.

Locally, Eddie Fahley of Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC in Imlay City and his friend and business owner, Matt Schaller, formed a group of people that came to name themselves the Ag Community Relief, a non-profit organization.

The group came to be as a result of a convoy of truckers who hauled everything imaginable on flatbed semi-trucks and trailers to assist those who suffered the terrible loss.

Thousands of bales of hay. Building and fencing material. Small sheds. Livestock supplies and feed. Personal items. Everything and anything they could get their hands on.

Anything they could think of was collected from gracious donors and trucked, in a huge convoy, to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and other states.

Fahley, one of the co-founders, said, “From the Michigan Convoy experience, Ag Community Relief was born. There was an overwhelming response and request to continue doing good for our ag communities so a non-profit 501(c)3 organization was formed.”

Ag Community Relief’s goal is to bring relief to active farmers/ranchers that experience devastation across the United States by assembling volunteers and donations to help mitigate their suffering.

“Fahley says, “We are here to help them get back to where they were before their disaster struck.”

As a result of the 2017 fire, a group of relief helpers from Michigan came up with a great idea.

Barbed wire from the 2017 wildfires in the Heartland was brought to Michigan and was to be made into decorative tumbleweeds and other crafts.

The unique barbed wire projects, which members of the Sanilac County FFA helped with, were then sold to support the Ag Community Relief effort. With proceeds, members of Ag Community relief were able to buy new rolls of barbed wire for the ranchers affected by the fires, and delivered to them.

In another instance, a group of 20 semi and pick-up trucks with trailers over-flowing with donated feed, fencing supplies, household items and other supplies left Ogemaw County, Michigan to head to Kansas.

The convoy would deliver their supplies to farmers and ranchers to help them rebuild from the ashes.

Ag Community Relief is seeking donations of hay, salt blocks, fencing, fence posts, livestock feed, milk replacer for baby calves and other ag related items.

They are also collecting money to help purchase those items and help cover other costs.

Truckers in the 2017 convoy volunteered their time and donated incurred costs of making the trip down and back.

Fahley and Schaller are planning to make a run to Texas this coming weekend, leaving Michigan March 7.

They are intending to hook up gooseneck trailers to their pickups and haul supplies including large rectangle bales of hay and horse feed.

“We’ve talked to some folks down there and they are letting us know what they need,” said Schaller. “After we drop our loads, we will have about a day and a half to help them out with moving hay around to other ranches. They need equipment and operators to move feed down there.”

Schaller said both he and Fahley will get a feel of what the needs are in Texas and come home to see if they can organize a larger ag relief convoy in a few weeks.

Schaller said when the 2017 convoy made their trip, they witnessed over 600,000 acres of charred remains and devastation

“This Texas fire is double in size of what we saw seven years ago,” Schaller pointed out. “We’ve held together as a group, and if they need us, we are coming.”

To make donations or volunteer you can call 810-614-0968. You can also email the organization at agcommunityrelief@gmail.com