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Baling out fellow farmers: Wellington County farmers respond to Saskatchewan's drought

'It’s our turn to turn the tables and help out friends in Saskatchewan:' Mennonite Disaster Service
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Chris Martin from Marhaven Agri, a farm in Alma has been collecting hay from local farmers. The loads of hay will then be transported to Saskatchewan in a transport truck. So far, 13 loads have been sent. Each load consists of 50 bales.

When southern Ontario faced a drought in 2012, farmers in Saskatchewan stepped up.

Now with the tables turned, local farmers are responding to the call to help their friends in droves, shipping 2,500 local bales of hay out west.

“This summer when we heard about the drought out there we thought 'you know what? It’s our turn to turn the tables and help out friends in Saskatchewan,'” said Lester Weber, Ontario’s unit secretary for Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) who is coordinating the project to get the hay out west. The organization had also led the project to bring hay from Saskatchewan in 2012. 

Weber said the goal is to send 50 loads. Each load consists of 50 bales. As of Thursday afternoon, 13 loads have been sent. 

According to a 2017 report by Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan accounts for more than two-fifths of Canada’s total field crop acreage with 36.7 million acres. That’s more than Alberta and Manitoba combined. Because of the drought in Saskatchewan this summer, farmers were unable to store hay for winter usage. Meanwhile, in southern Ontario, there was a surplus of hay. 

“I think for myself, as a Christian, I consider it my duty to help those folks in need if we have the means to help them with it and we do because we had a great year,” said Weber.

Chris Martin, from Marhaven Agri, a farm in Alma has been collecting hay from local farmers around the area and loading it on transport trucks to go out west. 

He said those who couldn’t bring a full load, did what they could and brought part of a load because farmers help farmers. 

“We export a lot into the U.S., but we also had a tremendous crop of hay in our area and felt we should share our blessings with those that are less fortunate,” said Martin. 

“You never know when the shoe will be in the other foot right?”

While the farmers are sending their hay for free, there is a cost associated with the shipping trucks that MDS hopes the province will cover like it did in 2012.  

“We put it in the back of cattle trailers, and that's the cheapest way for us to get it out,” said Weber. “We have not been able to have that covered. We’re just continuing on in hopes of getting donations to cover the cost of the hay, the freight to get the hay out.”

Weber said when the MDS put out a call for help, farmers from across southern Ontario stepped up to help. 

“We have had folks from the Niagara region we have had folks from close to Ottawa, north as far as Barrie, and west as far as probably almost to the lake so really all of southern Ontario,” he said. 

He said those who don’t have hay can donate money on the MDS website which will help with freight costs and purchasing additional hay. 

He said seeing farmers come together to help each other has been incredibly heartwarming to see.


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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