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It was snowing on Greg Melchior’s farm near Battleford, Saskatchewan in early January—and he couldn’t have been happier.

For Melchior, who has 114 head of beef cattle, the snow meant there might be better times ahead.

“If we get enough snow, maybe things can return to normal,” he said. “Maybe the sloughs will fill up again in spring.”

Last summer was hard for Melchior, and other farmers in the province, due to drought.

“I didn’t get much hay off,” he said. “It didn’t grow so good.”

Faced with the prospect of maybe having to sell some of this herd due to lack of feed, Melchior didn’t know what to do.

Then he heard about the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Hay West project, which finds farmers in Ontario donating hay to farmers in Saskatchewan.

“I applied, and I got some hay,” he said of 36 bales of hay that arrived in mid-December.

The donation means “I can keep my cattle, I don’t have to sell them,” Melchior said. “It will help get me through the winter.”

One of the farmers in Ontario who donated hay is Martin Ritsma of Stratford.

When he heard about the call for donations, “I thought I can do this,” he said.

For Ritsma, who farms near that southwestern Ontario city, and who also is Stratford’s deputy mayor, 2021 was a good year on the farm.

“I had one of my best crops,” he said. “It was outstanding.”

Being able to help farmers in another province who didn’t enjoy the same good fortune “is a real blessing,” he said. “By the grace of God, I have the capacity to help.”

In addition to donating hay himself, Ritsma arranges for other farmers to donate and load their hay for transport west.

“It’s just about doing the right thing,” he said. “It warms my heart I can be of service to God and others. There’s no bigger thing I can do.”

Greg Melchior is glad for the help. 

“I don’t know how I’d get through the winter without it,” he said. “They are doing a very good job for us.”

To date, 31 transport trailer loads of hay have been donated by Ontario farmers to MDS Hay West. Twenty-six have been shipped; 24 more farmers in Saskatchewan are awaiting hay. 

“I realize that for many people, the drought from last summer feels like it’s so far away,” said Lester Weber of the MDS Ontario Unit.

“Since that time, so many other disasters have made the news. But farmers in Saskatchewan are still living with the impact of the lack of rain, and we don’t want to forget them. I hope more farmers in Ontario will step up to help by donating hay.”

Farmers in Ontario who have hay to donate can contact Weber at 519-584-4171 or Delmer Erb at 519-897-4330; in-kind tax receipts are available for donations of hay. 

Farmers in Saskatchewan who need hay can call Daryl Bueckert (306-717-3987) or Ike Epp (306-342-7921). Download an application form for hay

Donations are also welcome to help pay for transportation costs for the hay. Click on the donate button to make your donation. 

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications

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