After Hurricane Florence slammed Sampson County, Jessica Chase was grateful for the opportunity to help livestock producers in eastern North Carolina.
Along with other volunteers, the Brazoria County agent for Texas A&M Agrilife Extension traveled all the way from the Lone Star State to offer a hand through a local animal supply point at the George P. Upton Jr. Livestock Facility. It currently contains hay, feed, and supplies to help livestock producers in the southeast region. The assistance led by Sampson County’s Cooperative Extension was approved by Sampson County emergency officials, with guidance coming from North Carolina State University and the N.C. Cattleman’s Association.
“We need to make sure that we help the animals because they can’t be forgotten,” Chase said. “Animals supply points in a wonderful thing and it really helps the farmers out. Animals need to eat too and if there’s nothing to eat, we can’t see them starving. Having something here to help farmers gives them the opportunity to relieve some stress and anxiety for them.”
The pressure is something Chase has witnessed before. She through federally declared disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and a major flooding event. For the past two years, she organized shelters for companion animals and livestock, in addition to supply points in Texas.
“We received so much help from other people during Hurricane Harvey,” Chase said. “It’s nice to be able to come back and give and help someone else.”
Eileen Coite, director of Sampson County Extension, said it’s been an awesome experience so far.
“It makes my heart feel good to see everyone come together,” Coite said. “Some of them have been through their own hard times and disasters, so they know what it’s like. It’s nice how everybody cares.”
After the hurricane, extension officials setup the supply point for farmers who lost hay because of flooding or other problems such as mold. The local supply point in Clinton is one of several in the region.
Agents from Texas flew to Sampson County to help local farmers and to provide their expertise to local agents. The extension office received just about 200 round bales of hay, weighing about 600 pounds each. Agent also received about 150 smaller square bales of hay, weighing between 50 and 70 pounds.
Hay bales are available for livestock producers in Sampson County and surrounding areas. The local supply point in Clinton is one of several in the region. Some of the others are Holly Ridge, Castle Hayes, Pink Hill, Jacksonville, Burgaw, Wallace and Kenansville.
During tough times such a hurricane recovery, Coite expressed how it could leave farmers financially strapped.
“We want them to know that we can get them back on their feet,” Coite said. “We can’t supply hay to last throughout the whole winter, but we can at least give them something so their animals don’t go hungry while they’re trying to get out of their driveway or do some repairs to their house.”
The donated hay came from North Carolinians from the western, northern and northeast regions and other states such as Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It’s all being routed through a hotline operated by the Agriculture Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Farmers and livestock producers may call 1-866-645-9403 for assistance.
“It’s been awesome,” Coite said. “I can’t say enough great things about everyone who’s given their time, their fuel and all of their resources to help everybody get through this.”
Monty Dozier, an extension special assistant for the Texas A&M University Agrilife Extension, was one of many volunteers who helped with the supply points.
“They way we look at things, we’re trying to help people preserve lives and livelihoods,” Dozier said.
For a lot farmers their life savings or 401 (k) for future financial plans are tied up in their cattle heard.
“If we can help them keep those cattle alive until the floodwaters recede, it helps the community and the family as well,” Dozier said. “A lot of times in these ag communities, the ag production is the main source of income for not only the families, but for that community as well. We see this as an opportunity to stabilize the local economy, but also the state economy.”
Dozier remember going through Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Harvey, which effected farmers and community members in Texas.
“You see people going through very difficult times and this is a step to help them recover,” he said. “It gives them hope that things will get better.”
Spencer Thomas, a North Carolina Extension horticulture agent from Edgecombe County, stressed the importance of getting supplies to areas hit the hardest.
“I know certain areas south of us flooded really bad, but it’s just one of those things where anything we can do to help would be really good,” Thomas said. “I don’t like seeing animals suffer.”
For more information about hay assistance, contact Sampson County Extension officials at 910-592-7161.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.