In spite of the wildfire that burned nearly 400,000 acres of grassland in Barber and Comanche counties, farmers and ranchers continue to look to better times and a renewed commitment to their farm and ranch operations.

As is their nature, farmers and ranchers are picking up the pieces and moving forward. Talk to them about the progress they’ve made and they can’t help but talk about the overwhelming support they’ve received from people across Kansas and neighboring states. In addition to encouragement and well wishes, hay and fencing equipment has arrived by the semi loads.

The farm and ranch residents in Barber and Comanche counties have welcomed and used the fire relief site -www.kfb.org/firerelief - Kansas Farm Bureau organized for those impacted by the wildfire. Supplies and labor for those in need can still be coordinated through this site.

Thousands of dollars have been donated, including some specifically earmarked to help volunteer fire departments in the area. Numerous connections have been made and offers of labor have been shared through the website.

This outpouring of neighbors helping neighbors is overwhelming and warms the heart and soul. We are truly blessed.

Farmers, stockmen and landowners in the wildfire area have also expressed their gratitude for the joint effort by Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association, K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Department of Agriculture who traveled to Barber County to tour the devastation shortly after containment of the fire in late March. State FSA and RMA directors also attended.

The Kansas Livestock Association continues to coordinate hay donation efforts. Short-term needs have been met. Long-term demands for hay are not yet known.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture built a website to compile information from multiple sources on available programs and initiatives to attempt to provide a central point of information.

Farm Service Agency programs for loss of livestock, fencing materials and stockpiled hay include: Livestock Indemnity Program, Emergency Conservation Program and Emergency Livestock Assistance Program.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank the front-line soldiers in this reconstruction effort – those hardy souls who live in Barber and Comanche counties. The people who run the businesses up and down Main street and provide the food, fuel, and farm and ranch supplies.

They remain the glue that keeps the community moving forward so this gathering of neighbors and friends can continue living and working in this region of our state.

They’re the ones who are also spending extra hours to take care of their own. This combined effort continues to bolster the morale and attitude of those who suffered through this natural catastrophe. Knowing concerned, caring, fellow Kansans will work on their behalf has lifted a tremendous load from the backs.

Grass continues to grow throughout the Gyp Hills as everyone begins to clean up the burned posts and destroyed fence lines. The sound of chain saws, post-hole diggers and hammers signal new posts and refurbished fencing snaking back across the once-blackened landscape.

Everyone who calls this part of the state home understands the recovery will take several years. It will also include long, hard hours of work, a large outlay of capital and trials that will continue to test the farmers and ranchers.

But they’re in this for the long run. They’ll bow their backs, work as hard as they can and look forward to better years ahead.

Richard Felts and his family farm in Montgomery County. He is president of the Kansas Farm Bureau.

Richard Felts and his family farm in Montgomery County. He was elected as Kansas Farm Bureau president in November.

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