While farmers in Kentucky are enduring a rather dry summer, it is nothing compared to what those in Texas are facing. Nearly the entire state is considered to be in exceptional drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Last week, nearly 900 miles away on a farm in Fayette County, a group of high school and college students — including members of Jessamine County’s FFA chapter — waited for a flatbed trailer to pull into a barn to be loaded with hundreds of hay bales that were Texas bound.
The hay had been donated by farm owner Mark Smith to his counterparts in the Lone Star state as a way to help the drought-stricken area in some small way.
The students, all FFA members, were gathered together by former state FFA president Logan Goggin, a student at the University of Kentucky, and his fellow student Zeke Green, the current state FFA vice president.
Goggin said it is never hard to get volunteers, even for such hard work as loading hay, because of the community spirit the FFA organization possesses.
“I didn’t have to beg or plead,” Goggin said. “I just typed a few e-mails, and they were willing to come out and volunteer their time.”
Christi Hack, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser from Jessamine County, had more volunteers than she could bring.
“That is how FFA students are,” she said.
Hack added that after people see teenagers in the media and how they are depicted on TV and in the movies they don’t expect this kind of volunteerism out of a typical teenager today. But FFA students aren’t always typical teenagers, she said.
“They set a standard much higher than the average teen,” she said. “My kids were really excited about coming. I think they understand there is a need, and they just go to it.”
Steve Meredith, a former state and national FFA president and coordinator of the Governor’s Garden Project, has been instrumental in many FFA projects. He said Smith, who actually lives in North Carolina, was so moved by the need of farmers in Texas that he decided to run an ad in a newspaper stating he had free hay; all someone had to do was come and get it.
It was no small task, but volunteers answered the call. A contact was then made within state government, which is where Meredith picked up the project, and all that was needed was the volunteer help to load it.
“The obvious go-to people for volunteer labor here are the young people who are members of the FFA organization, and all I did was made a few simple calls,” he said. “I had no doubts.”
Meredith added that he had spoken to the Texas FFA executive secretary recently and learned of just how grave the conditions are in that state.
“It is clearly very, very serious down there,” he said. “When you are expecting to be grazing livestock this time of year, you’re expecting to graze them well into the late fall and then begin to feed hay. They had no hay harvest this year and fed up all their stockpiles. This is decimating the herds in Texas, and these things are serious for our food supply.”
Meredith also said that for the people of Texas, this donation is just as much about the moral support as it is the hay.
“This will help several dozen head of livestock. It will help several farmers,” he said. “But more importantly, it’s a big statement of ‘we care,’ and Kentucky FFA is here today to say, ‘we care’ just as the owner of the hay said ‘I care,’ and it’s pretty important.”