Fighting fire, the Land O'Lakes way

Members, employees, cooperatives all help neighbors devastated by wildfires

Two Men Fixing A Fence After A Wildfire

Doing a little good is more important than ever when things go wrong. And in the Southern plains, disaster struck as wildfires raged from March into April.

The Kansas Farm Bureau reported that the fires destroyed more than 650,000 acres as they raged from Kansas across into parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

Houses, fencing, farmland and even animals have been lost. The cattle ranchers in those parts were hurt particularly hard. And as these ranchers are assessing damages, they are also trying to take care of the cattle that survived – without fields or food in some cases.

Thankfully, our dairy members, co-op members, Purina and the Land O’Lakes Foundation have all been leveraging our combined resources to help in any way we can.

Help from 1000 miles away

Nic Schoenberger, a Land O’Lakes dairy member, board member and co-owner of Greendale Dairy, in Kiel, Wisconsin, first heard about the wildfires because his dairy had recently moved some of their heifers out to northeast Kansas, though that area had largely been unaffected.

Nic decided to reach out to Bailey Maxwell of Tallgrass Commodities, who was creating efforts for agriculture producers affected by the fires. Bailey put him in direct contact with Kit Walker.

Soon, Nic learned that Kit Walker’s family had lost their ranch house, almost 600 head of cow/calf pairs, equipment and more in the fire. Nic wanted to help, but he was an Enterprise dairy producer in Wisconsin, not in Kansas; he was nearly 1000 miles away.

“We had a great summer last year, and we had a lot of feed. I mentioned in passing to my brother-in-law and partner Mike, that it’d be good to send some hay bales down, and we took off with it,” says Nic. “We started making phone calls, and it became a team effort.”

He and Mike knew that they could donate 30 bales of hay, and the alfalfa bales could be used to feed the Bouzidan stocker calves. But Nic and Mike also needed to figure out logistics of transportation – who would be able to drive the hay all the way to Kansas.

His friend and neighbor Paul Litz, owner of Paul Litz Trucking, LLC, offered to drive his truck with the hay down to Kansas for them. With one more phone call, Nic’s friend Jim Loefer, general manager of C.P. Feeds in Valders, Wisconsin, offered to cover the transportation costs for getting the feed to Kansas.

“As there are less and less farmers out there, people in other states become your neighbors,” says Nic. “We as a family make an effort each and every day to give back to an industry that has been good to us.”

Loading up and rebuilding

Being a good neighbor is something that also rings true for the Dull family of Dull Homestead Farm in Brookeville, Ohio, Land O’Lakes co-op members.

Luke Dull, found out about a relief trip that was looking for more people to join through the Ohio Farm Bureau Young Ag Professionals Facebook page, organized by Greg and Rose Hartschuh. Knowing that there was more he could do, Luke Dull reached out to neighbors and local businesses to organize donations of supplies that he could take out.

In late March, Luke and his neighbors loaded up trucks full of fencing, milk replacer, hay and other supplies, and Luke drove 14 hours one-way to help the affected ranchers out in Ashland, Kansas.

Luke also took pictures all through the process to post on social media. He posted about the destruction in the heartland, but also about the compassion of the agriculture community that came together to rebuild.

One community

Across the U.S. and across the agriculture industry, people have donated, drove down and helped out in any way they can. It goes to prove that agriculture is simply an industry that cares about its neighbors, and that seems to be true across Land O’Lakes’ network of business, members and customers.

With the help of the Land O’Lakes Foundation, Purina donated 920 protein and mineral tubs, 880 bags of cattle breeder cubes and 40 bags of milk, split amongst the states affected. And that’s just in line with Purina’s history of caring – they donated feed last year to help with a Kansas wildfire and back in 2007 to rebuild after a tornado.

The Land O’Lakes Foundation is also donating $10,000 to assist the states affected, split evenly amongst Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation, Kansas Livestock Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation and the Texas Department of Agriculture STAR Fund.

As a national, farmer-owned cooperative, Land O’Lakes is committed to helping communities across the U.S. who are affected by disasters,” says Land O’Lakes Foundation Executive Director Lydia Botham. “The devastation from the fires is heart-wrenching, and I’m proud that across the company and across this industry, everyone is working together to help.