As farmers in Southern Indiana clean up and begin to put their lives and livelihoods back together, the Hoosier farm community is ready to help. When tornadoes ripped a 45 mile long path of destruction across southern Indiana, many Hoosier farms were severely damaged and tons of debris were spread over hundreds of acres just weeks away from planting. State Dept of Agriculture Director Joe Kelsay said his department is working with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts, “I have been in contact with our ISDA team members who are covering that area to get assessments of damage and to determine what will be needed to get these farming operations back up and productive again.” He told HAT that in the next few weeks they will evaluate the damage and determine what is needed. Purdue Extension officials reported to HAT that Extension Educators, working in concert with Steve Cain, Extension’s Disaster Coordinator, were on the ground assessing damages and identifying victims’ needs. Purdue Extension Educators in Southern Indiana have been providing helpful information on a wide variety of topics as a result of the storms. Initial concerns focused on livestock related issues, but have since moved on to helping put people in contact with volunteers that can assist with debris removal. James Mintert,
Assistant Director of Extension, said, “Longer term, helping people identify and learn how to apply for possible disaster assistance from USDA will take place as well. As of today, we have not started a program that would focus on helping affected farmers get ready for spring planting season by putting them in touch with experienced farmers from other locales, but I will be in touch with several of our Extension Educators to discuss this.”
Kent Yeager, with Indiana Farm Bureau, has been on farms in the devastated area and told HAT neighbors are helping to pick up the pieces of damaged farming operations, “At the one farm I was on, there were 40 or more people helping clean up — which is what you would expect in a rural community.” Yeager said what will be needed in the next few weeks are people with farming experience to help sift through the debris, “That kind of experience really helps when it comes to working with farm equipment; it really helps to know what you are dealing with.” He said, especially when it comes to cleaning up farm chemicals, you have got to know what you are handling.
With the planting season just weeks away, farmers in the area will be looking for help to get back on their feet and plans are underway to coordinate experienced farm help. Yeager says there will be a need to connect experienced producers with those who need seed, equipment, and help in cleaning up fields and getting the crop in the ground. Yeager said farmers who want to help should contact their county Farm Bureau office or district director.
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