I'm Emily Merritt. I am a sheep farmer in eastern Kentucky and a member and volunteer for the Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producers Association (KSWPA) and the Southeast Kentucky Sheep Producers Association (SEKSPA). The two associations have joined together to help the farm families in the mountains whose small ruminant subsistent farms have been badly hurt by the recent floods. Together our two associations have over 300 members. Let's all reach out to family, friends, and our kind-hearted neighbors to help the farm families in the mountains who have suffered significant losses from the July floods.
NOW IS THE TIME TO RALLY!!
I know that your hearts, like mine, are going out to those families who lost loved ones and/or their homes from the devastating floods in eastern Kentucky. As you might imagine, small family farms in the mountains are also suffering. Barns have been swept away, hay has been ruined, pastures covered with mud, fencing has been destroyed, and sheep, goats and guard animals have been lost. Animals are starving and need safe barns and secure pastures as soon as possible. The needs are immediate and urgent.
Imagine suddenly being faced with the choice of either having to save your livestock or your neighbor’s family. Imagine waking up to flood waters rising so fast that your guard dogs are swept away with your sheep before you can realize what’s happening. Imagine seeing the alfalfa field you invested a full month’s Social Security check to plant for Christmas money be covered with a thick layer of mud.
One farm family in the mountains lost their entire goat herd in the flood. The farmer was away from his home trying to help his neighbors quickly move out of the rising flood waters when it happened, otherwise he probably could have gotten his goats to higher ground. His barn was destroyed, all of his fencing was torn out and his pastures were covered with a thick layer of mud. He hasn’t been able to focus on fixing any of it back since he works for a local utility company and he has been working from daylight to dark since the storm trying to restore service for people in his county. The flood waters swept over another farm so fast that the family lost their two large guard dogs and several of their sheep. Hearing of the family’s loss, a Tennessee farmer delivered a guard dog puppy to provide protection for the family’s livestock that survived the flood.
Stories like these can be told about hundreds of farm families who are suffering tremendous losses from the July flood in eastern Kentucky. Destruction and death are not new to people in the mountains, and the forces of devastation have struck again. Their ordeal is real and on-going. For decades, the people of Kentucky Appalachia have suffered from abject poverty, drug addiction, rampant crime, major health problems, and a high suicide rate and now people are even more desperate. There is not one ‘silver bullet’ solution for the socio-economic woes of the mountain people. But many people see livestock agriculture as one of the many ‘silver buckshot’ that can assist in the transition from a coal-based economy to a sustainable and stable future in the mountains. Sheep and goat production on the hillside fields, bottomland pastures and reclaimed surface mines in the coal field of eastern Kentucky has been on the rise but the recent devasting flood has set the mountain people back. They need your help to rebuild their homes, their farms, their way of life, their livelihoods.
KSWPA and SEKSPA are working hand in hand to gather and deliver feed and farm supplies to the flood victims who need help the most. As soon as the flood waters receded, we began sending convoy after convoy of trucks to Hazard, Jackson, Whitesburg, and Hindman loaded down with hay, feed, bedding, fencing supplies and building materials. We have ‘boots on the ground’ representatives visiting the farm families to determine their needs and to coordinate the deliveries.
You can help by donating to our joint Go Fund Me account set-up to purchase needed supplies such as fencing, hay, sheep mineral, and other needed items for shepherds to rebuild their flocks. Money is the most needed item as it is easiest to get to the right area and purchase supplies where and when available.
One goal we have set is to purchase a large amount of fencing and other materials for verified sheep and goat farmers who need help. You can donate funds in any amount to help us purchase items like the following:
• 10 rolls of woven wire HT sheep fence ($370 each)
• 425 metal T-posts ($6.50 each)
• 50 cattle panels ($28 each)
• 30 bags of sheep and/or goat mineral ($26 per bag)
Please send donations to the joint Go Fund Me account
(Please note that this is the only way to provide funds using a credit card)
Or you can send a check to KSWPA that will then be used to assist SESKPA in the on-the-ground relief efforts. You can make checks out to KSWPA, note it is for Flood Relief, and mail to:
143 Carolyn Lane
Nicholasville, KY 40356
If monetary donations are not possible, we are also looking for individuals who could provide labor rebuilding fences, assisting with clean-up, or making deliveries. Also, farms willing to temporarily keep sheep or goats on your pasture would be beneficial as our fellow farmers rebuild. Numerous farmers throughout Kentucky are pledging to donate sheep and goats to families whose livestock were lost in the floodwaters when they have rebuilt fencing, barns and capacity to receive them.
Times like these can remind us that people don't have to live close to each other in order to act like neighbors. We don't have to see eye to eye in order to act like friends.
If you have any questions, comments, or would like to be involved in the efforts to help, please contact us at South East Kentucky Sheep Producers Association or Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producers Association websites.
Thank you for your kind generosity.
- Emily Merritt