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Macon hay: Mennonites respond to Ohio drought victims

 

Noxubee County residents Darren Miller, Lukas Borntrager and Garrett Miller watch as Fritz Brick, of Ohio, loads hay onto a truck July 31 in Macon. Macon farmer Gary Miller supplied 540 bales of hay to Ohio farmers affected by the recent drought.

Noxubee County residents Darren Miller, Lukas Borntrager and Garrett Miller watch as Fritz Brick, of Ohio, loads hay onto a truck July 31 in Macon. Macon farmer Gary Miller supplied 540 bales of hay to Ohio farmers affected by the recent drought. Photo by: Courtesy Photo/Morris Miller

 

Carmen K. Sisson

 

Macon farmer Gary Miller didn't hesitate when his neighbor, Morris Miller (no relation), called to say dairy farmers in northeast Ohio were suffering from a severe drought, dipping into their winter reserves to feed their cattle. The two men sprang into action, and within hours, 540 bales of hay was northward-bound.  

 

Morris Miller, chairman of the Mississippi/Louisiana chapter of Mennonite Disaster Service, learned of the situation from Ohio resident Wyman Miller (no relation), who serves with his wife, Marie Miller, as secretary/treasurer for MDS.  

 

Immediately, he called Gary Miller, who he knew grows high-quality Coastal Bermuda hay and bales it in squares, making it more efficient for cross-country transport. Last year, Miller donated 1,000 pounds of hay to drought-stricken farmers in Texas, so he was more than willing to contribute to the cause.  

 

"I feel for these guys," Gary Miller said Saturday. "The drought is killing them, and they need all the help they can get. One of these days, the same thing could happen to us. It has in the past." 

 

The affected Ohio farmers, who are primarily Amish, do not use electricity or mechanized irrigation, and they practice "intensive grazing," pasture-feeding their cattle instead of using grain. They rely on Mother Nature and prayers to see them through each summer,  

 

This year, it has rained to the north and south, but farmers in Mount Hope, Ohio have seen little, Wyman Miller said.  

 

Many of the dairy farmers are selling off their herds because they can't afford to feed them. Hay normally costs around $150 to $200 per ton at auction, but need has driven prices to as much as $500 a ton. Mediocre milk prices aren't enough to make it financially feasible to pay such inflated prices.  

 

Because of the glut of cows at auction, sometimes farmers can't even get rid of their herds. Instead, they are turned away, forced to continue trying to feed them.  

 

Morris Miller said because Mississippi/Louisiana MDS has received so much monetary assistance over the years due to a spate of natural disasters, they had extra funds on-hand to purchase $3,780 in hay from Gary Miller. But now, the coffers are almost empty, and they won't be able to send more unless they receive donations.  

 

But the need is ongoing, and no relief is in sight, Wyman Miller said.  

 

"It kind of sneaks up on you," he said. "You realize it's dry, but you don't realize how dry. As we go, we're going to hear of more (in need), because they didn't get the amounts of crops they were expecting." 

 

He said six Amish farmers were helped by Gary Miller's donation, but aid is not limited to any specific group. MDS plans to help any farmer in need of assistance. It makes sense, he said, because high hay prices will cause high milk prices, which will result in fewer people buying milk, creating a spiraling economic downturn.  

 

MDS is a non-profit network made up of volunteers across the nation who assist with disaster cleanup and rebuilding. They recently concluded Hurricane Katrina disaster cleanup and recovery in New Orleans.  

 

Those who wish to donate hay or funds to help the Ohio farmers can contact Wyman and Marie Miller in Ohio at 330-231-8732. Monetary donations can be sent to MDS Hay Fund, c/o Wyman Miller, 5452 TR 377, Millersburg, OH 44654.

 

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.

 

 

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