Ohio to Nebraska - Putnam Sentinel
Volunteers in Ottawa load a trailer with supplies for Nebraska farmers that had been donated from throughout the area. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

OTTAWA — The blessing is the curse. They’ve been here before. Confronting devastation with faith, determination, much needed supplies, and a can-do optimism that, now more than ever it sometimes feels these days, we must remember is as part of America as the air we breath and soil we trod.

In 2017, when fires raged in Kansas, Rose Hartschuh of Crawford Co. Ohio decided to do something. She helped organize a convoy of farmers bringing supplies to ranchers affected by the devastation. Farmers helping farmers.

The grassroots effort quickly grew. People came together, farmers who understood what was lost, knew what tools and equipment were desperately needed, and felt it was their responsibility to help. 45 vehicles, 126 individuals, $41,000 worth of hay, $11,500 worth of feed, $3,250 worth of fencing, and $32,000 cash came together in just a few days, according to a website maintained by Mrs. Hartschuh (further details on this org. and other ways to help are below).

“It was Monday morning,” wrote Mrs. Hartschuh March 20 on the website she first setup for the Kansas effort. “Greg (her husband) and I had officially decided we were going to pull another group together to help, this time, Nebraska…Why we should help: 1. Because we are able. 2. Because there’s a need.”

Roughly an hour away from Ottawa, on the Miller Bros. farm, about five miles south of Bucyrus, Tom and Nadine Miller answered the call. Mr. Miller and Mrs. Hartschuh know each other from serving on Crawford Co.’s SWCD. The Millers were also a part of the earlier Kansas effort.

“We saw the flier that she had posted on Facebook for the group,” Mrs. Miller recounts. “[My husband Tom] just kind of looked at me and said, ‘There’s no reason we can’t go.’”

“We have the truck. We did borrow the trailer from a friend who was very gracious enough to loan us his trailer to take all the way to Nebraska. There’s a lot of people who have come together to loan vehicles or trailers, not just donate supplies, and that kind of thing.”

“A group of kids from the Wynford FFA are going. They’re also taking some Gators or UTVs to hopefully be able to go out and do some actual work.”

“Right now there are 29 people and ten vehicles going with our group. We’re leaving from Tiffin at 6 a.m. Friday (March 29). That will be a full drive day. Saturday will be a delivery and volunteer day, pretty much through Sunday, and then the group will be heading back Sunday evening.”

There are two things to note in the above statements.

First, The group is staying just long enough to help, and before they themselves become a burden. They are bringing food for themselves along with supplies. Sleeping conditions were expected to be rough.

Second, The FFA students are ‘hoping’ to do work. They undoubtedly will, but they’re going-in blind. Yet still, the volunteers plan and prepare. The Kansas experience, and being farmers themselves, informs everyone’s knowledge of the need and what to expect. That’s the blessing. But, it comes at a terrible price of knowing what this devastation means to the farmers they’re helping.

“That was their money that they were going to operate on for the year.” Mrs. Miller says when describing what went through her mind when viewing images of the flood damage in Nebraska. “They maybe were waiting to market their grain for a good price. And, they’ve still got bills from last year to pay. As well as what they’re going to live on now.”

“It’s very heart wrenching when you see those kind of pictures. A lot of the infrastructure is damaged out there, a lot of roads. Places like [Ottawa Feed & Grain], where farmers may have been taking their grain to sell, have a lot of damage as well.”

“There’s a lot of debris on the fields that would need to be cleared away before they could plant. A lot of the fencing for their livestock was destroyed. Levies and the dams are one of the biggest things. Because until those are repaired, anytime it rains, it’s going to flood again.”

Since the effort last weekend, eight Putnam farms have donated additional hay and straw for farmers in Nebraska. It will be part of the Ohio Relief Haulers convoy departing this upcoming Friday, April 5. The hay and straw will be hauled by the Anderson family from London, Ohio. All who have participated in this local, grassroots effort have expressed their sincere gratitude for all that’s been donated.

To learn more, and to assist Nebraska farmers, visit the website maintained by Mrs. Hartschuh: www.ohiosruralamericarelief.wordpress.com; or follow the group on on social media: Facebook.com/ohiosruralamericarelief. To help assist Nebraska farmers directly, readers may donate through a website maintained by the Nebraska Farm Bureau: https://www.nefb.org/get-involved/disaster-assistance.

To read a little more about the person who organized the gathering of supplies locally in Ottawa, see our companion article, Playing her part.