Pay it forward and it’ll come back to you.
Harold Bateman knows that better than anyone this week. The Tweed, Ont. farmer found himself at the Smiths Falls rail yards on Monday, Nov. 26, the morning of winter’s first snowfall, about as far removed from this past summer’s drought-inducing heat as one could be.
He was waiting to unload a whole load of hay which had been sent in by train from western Canada. Several years ago, the beef farmer had been one of the farmers who had volunteered to send their own hay westward-ho to drought-stricken fellow farmers on the prairies.
“We’re hurting,” Bateman said, looking up at the towering yellow bales, set against the cold, blue sky. “I’m lucky to have it. I was ecstatic,” with the news.
One of Shakespeare’s plays was entitled All’s Well That Ends Well, and while it has ended well for Bateman, it certainly did not start that way for him.
“Everything started wrong,” said Bateman.
For many farmers in the area, the first cut of the season was not good, and as the bales were being wound together, Bateman had that horrible sinking feeling that their best efforts were to be in vain.
“The day we made the last bale, the numbers were not there,” said Bateman. “We’re in trouble.”
The English poet John Milton once wrote that “they also serve who only stand and wait,” and indeed Bateman too stood at the ready to help the farmer’s, lo those many years ago.
“We offered it but we didn’t send any because they had enough without ours,” said Bateman. Now, with the generosity returned, Bateman hopes that this shipment will last until March.
Like a warm Chinook wind blowing from across the prairies here into eastern Ontario, the generosity of our fellow Canadians warmed the hearts of other farmers in the area.
“It’s tremendous to see hay like this come in and the west supporting us,” said Gordon Patterson of the Lanark Cattlemen’s Association. “They (loads of hay) are coming in every day…It’s great to see the western farmers supporting the eastern Ontario farmers like this.”
In fact, that very morning, Patterson had helped unload hay up in Maberly.
“Myself, I’m all right,” said Patterson. “I reduced my herd last year because I’m supposed to retire.”
Like Bateman’s predicament, Patterson’s hay yield was only 50 per cent of what it normally is.
“There were lots of others that had no hay,” said Patterson. “They were in a desperate situation.”
These western grasses, however, will go a long way towards helping farmers continue to feed cities.
“They more hay we can get to those animals, the better,” said Patterson.
Farmer Wyatt McWilliams of Navan remembered the original Hay West campaign.
“Times have changed,” he said. “It’s pretty heart-warming to know that the Canadian spirit is alive and well. The guys in the west want to help. It’s farmers helping farmers. It’s a rural economy too. Everybody’s yields are down.”
But help was not only coming from western farmers, but from the financial services sector closer to home. On this morning, Jack Taylor of Lanark Mutual Insurance was on hand with a $10,000 cheque to the cause.