Ontario MDS volunteers already moving hay west

Disaster response group spearheading program separate from CFA plan

(MDS.mennonite.net)

It’s in the spirit of co-operation in difficult times that a group of Ontario farmers have launched a hay donation program to assist their Saskatchewan counterparts.

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada, a volunteer organization that provides assistance in the aftermath of disasters in Canada and the U.S., is organizing the latest iteration of Hay West to send hay to producers in Saskatchewan who have been hit hard by drought conditions.

MDS’s Hay West is not to be confused with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s previously announced plan for a Hay West program this year; however, the MDS Hay West program’s end zone is more or less the same.

“Canadian farmers keenly feel each other’s need and are quick to respond to one another. I don’t think any other industry has as much community spirit as farming,” says Lester Weber, secretary for MDS Canada’s Ontario unit.

MDS plans to ship 50 truckloads of donated hay west throughout the fall, with the first two truckloads arriving in Osler, Sask. last week. The organization is asking trucking companies in Ontario to donate or offer transportation at reduced rates.

“We will try and co-ordinate the donations with the demand in the West, but we are hoping possibly a few loads a week ongoing through this fall,” says Weber.

“The hay will be made available to family farms in Saskatchewan at a current competitive cost of 10 cents per pound for dairy grade and seven cents per pound for beef grade,” according to a MDS press release. “Funds collected by the sale of the hay will be used to offset any transportation costs.”

Initial feedback to this program has been promising, Weber reports. “We have already received calls from people willing to donate, and we have barely even got the word out,” he says.

“We anticipate a strong response, since some farmers here in Ontario were recipients of western farmers’ generosity back in 2012, when hay was shipped in from the West.”

The 2012 Hay East program was itself a response to a previous westbound drought relief effort in 2002.

Currently, MDS is working to source enough hay to meet its goal of 50 truckloads. “This is ongoing, and we are really only starting to get the word out,” says Weber.

Those interested in donating hay can call 519-584-4171 to learn more or bring it directly to Marhaven Agri Services in Alma, Ont. (7715 Wellington, Hwy. 8).

Donations towards transportation costs are also welcome and can be made through the MDS Canada website.

Saskatchewan farmers interested in receiving hay can learn more by calling 306-716-5909 or completing an application form, also available on the MDS Canada site.

— Piper Whelan is a field editor for Canadian Cattlemen.

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