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East Coast farmers, truckers bring hay to ND

Tom and Cheryl Bedgar took a load of hay to North Dakota to assist North Dakota ranchers dealing with drought conditions, and Tom is helping coordinate trucking to get more loads from the East Coast. Submitted photo.1 / 2
Hay from the East Coast, along with trucking to get it here, has been donated to help ranchers in western North Dakota who are struggling with drought conditions. Submitted photo.2 / 2

DICKINSON, N.D. — When Tom Bedgar asked Jeff King if he'd take a load of hay from Maryland to North Dakota, King went home, talked to his wife and prayed about it.

And in little time at all, he and his brother-in-law had decided to make the cross-country trip with 25 tons of hay bound for the drought-stricken north. King's cousin-in-law also joined them for the trip to help break up the miles each would need to drive.

"We felt it was a way we could give back," King says. "God has blessed us in our businesses and put us in positions where we could do something to help someone in need."

Sarah Bedgar Wilson, of Jamestown, N.D., says there has been an outpouring of support from farmers, truckers and the tractor pull community on the East Coast in finding ways to get hay to North Dakota. The truckers have been connected through the Patriot Pulling Team of competitive tractor pullers, including putting up $500 for fuel.

Bedgar, Wilson's uncle, has helped coordinate hay donations and trucking resources. So far, 12 loads of hay have been donated from Maryland and Pennsylvania through that effort, though getting them to North Dakota has been more difficult. It's at least a four-day trip to get the hay to Dickinson, N.D. Stockmen's Livestock Exchange has agreed to unload and reload it free of charge. Then, they head back to Maryland or Pennsylvania.

Wilson is on the board of directors for the Stutsman County Farm Bureau, which is leading the local effort on the East Coast hay drive. She says some of the farmers donating hay also have thrown in some fuel to help get it here. Other than that, the effort is relying on donations for fuel money. Any money raised above the cost of fuel will be donated to ranchers affected by the drought.

Wilson has worked with highway patrols and governors' offices across the route to make sure the truckers are able to pass through without problems, and most officials have been "in awe" of the effort.

"We have a lot of people across half of the United States really going out of their way to make sure this happens for these ranchers," she says.

Some truckers are trying to find ways to haul hay in potato trailers so they can backhaul a load of potatoes during harvest, Wilson says.

"People are getting creative," she says.

King and his driving partners, Bobby Saathoff and Bryan Saathoff, all have backgrounds in farming and trucking. King raises grain and processing vegetables for cannery, along with poultry. So, heading to North Dakota was a bit of a sacrifice.

But having three drivers meant they could make the trip without stopping for more than a meal or two. King calls North Dakota "beautiful" and says they had a great, though quick, trip. Being able to give back to others made it even better.

"My family had been in a situation before where we lost everything," King says, adding the community rallied around them at that time and supplied us with what they needed. "I felt like there was a need there, and we could offer some help."

King and his wife may make another trip with another load.

"We definitely are kicking it around," he says.

And he hopes people struggling in the drought know that they'll get through it.

"God is good," he says. "Even in situations like this where people are struggling, God will still provide."

Anyone able to assist in trucking or anyone on the East Coast with hay to donate should contact Tom Bedgar at 717-873-4421. Monetary donations can be sent to the North Dakota Farm Bureau Foundation, with "Hay drive" written in the memo to differentiate it from other drought relief efforts. The address is 1101 1st Ave. N, Fargo, ND, 58102.