Farmers and ranchers across South Dakota know Mother Nature's wrath well. Days of calm, peaceful beauty are rare, but they are treasured in the hearts and souls of all who live them. Though South Dakota ranchers, especially those far west of the Missouri River, are a hearty bunch, nothing could have prepared them for the catastrophe on October 4.
Mother Nature unleashed a relentless and hellish fury of rain, snow, ice and wind with little warning. When she was done raging, Mother Nature had left behind unimaginable carnage ... tens of thousands of livestock--cattle, horses, sheep and wildlife--were decimated ... generations of blood, sweat and tears were chewed up and spit out. Some ranch herds made it through unscathed while neighboring herds were destroyed.
In South Dakota and neighboring states, we deal with blizzards and blizzard-like conditions on a regular basis; it's called winter. There was no discrimination in Mother Nature's wrath that night, and it seems wholly unfair to call this horrific event "a blizzard".
This unpredictable beast was a storm of unprecedented destruction. This storm brought even the most independent, hardened and dedicated rancher to his knees. Tragically, some of these hardworking, gentle souls won't get back up.
Images of the carnage are horrific. Personally, I can't look at pictures or read a story without goosebumps and tears.
Yet, amid the death and sadness, hope rises at every corner. Live animals are being found in the most bizarre situations. Sick animals are recovering, and neighbors are pulling together.
Perhaps most heart-warming though is the way people from across the state, region and country have pulled together. Personal opinions and political agendas are being put aside. Two sides of South Dakota, which are often divided by more than just a river, are coming together for some of our state's most forgotten people.
Fellow ranchers in the region have launched an organization to manage the donation of live animals. Another group activated social networking communities to help re-connect lost animals and their owners. Auction barns across the state are organizing roll-over auctions with all proceeds directly benefiting producers in need.
While the outpouring of support has been heartwarming, did you know all of these efforts have yet to make a dent in the need? Did you know you can help change that?
The SD Rancher Relief Fund was established by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation to provide support and relief assistance to livestock producers impacted by the early October blizzard. Though obvious, replacing livestock is actually one of the smallest challenges. Immediate needs include things like carcass disposal and operating loans. Long-term needs include replacing decades worth of genetic investment and more.
One way I have chosen to help is by creating a T-shirt campaign, which you can find at www.booster.com/sdranchers. For your $25 donation, you'll receive a T-shirt proclaiming your support of our state's ranchers.Your gift provides much more than just a T-shirt to you though ...
With your gift, which will be directed to the SD Rancher Relief Fund, you can help bridge the gap between town and country, east and west. You can proudly remind others of the men and women who tirelessly dedicate themselves to the safe, nutritious production of your food.
Please consider getting involved to help support our neighbors in the west!