Research station teams ups to help flooded farmers in WNC

by | Sep 8, 2021

Less that 24 hours after remnants of Tropical Storm Fred flooded areas of western North Carolina, staff at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville began mobilizing to help farmers who needed a hand to recover. The flooding rains came on a Monday. On Tuesday, the aid effort began.

“The morning following the flooding, we started calling producers in the hardest hit areas of the Bethel and Cruso communities to see how we could help,” said station employee Kyle Miller. “The entire station crew was involved, whether it was working with emergency management crews or working with producers to assess their needs and get them the resources they needed to get back on their feet.”

Two station employees with emergency response training went out with search and rescue teams, claiming the community service hours they’re allotted through NCDA&CS. Meanwhile, other station employees looked for other ways to help. Since Miller has been a leader of the local branch of the N.C. Cattlemen’s Association, he knew plenty of people to check on. So did everyone at the station.

“About everywhere there was a stream or creek or a crossing, there was fence down. We didn’t want livestock getting into roads or to other areas to add to an already bad situation,” said station superintendent Will Morrow.

At the same time, the executive director of the N.C. Cattlemen’s Association Bryan Blinson heard of the need. He’d been in touch with Miller and others on that Tuesday, and he knew the association had some temporary fencing left from disaster recovery efforts in eastern North Carolina following Hurricane Florence in 2018.

“It was just a matter of communicating with the Extension folks and the station folks and realizing we had this resource, so we took it to them,” Blinson said. “I’m constantly talking to the people in the area, and this was something I realized they could use.”

Blinson got the fencing loaded in the association’s trailer Wednesday morning and drove it to the research station in Waynesville by that evening.

“We immediately pulled together a workforce,” Miller said.

People in the Haywood County Cooperative Extension office, which is adjacent to the research station, had also been helping coordinate the aid effort. Starting Thursday morning, livestock agent Ethan Henderson and livestock specialist Deidra Harmon joined the station’s workers, along with Blinson and some other NCDA&CS employees from the department’s Veterinary Division. The director of the Research Stations Division Teresa Lambert heard of the effort as well, and she brought additional surplus fencing from the Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs.

“The best part was that it was a partnership effort between Extension, the research station and the Cattlemen’s Association. It was just a team effort. We jumped in and tried to figure it out as best we could. All of them were local to the area, so they knew where some immediate needs were,” Blinson said. “Once they fixed one place, they maybe realized there was another person next door or down the road they needed to help also.

“I was very proud of both the station staff and the extension staff that jumped in. They did a really good job.”

Research station employees help John & Lisa Leatherwood put up temporary fencing.

Lambert said during some of the time she was out lending a hand, there was still rain moving through the area. They were not deterred. The effort to get fencing up and livestock in safe places continued.

“The employees here are just a great group of caring folks,” Miller said. “We were just overwhelmed with the damage and wanted to do something to help. Most of us don’t have the training to help with the emergency response searches and such, but we could build fences. So it was a way we could help.

“Anytime you can help out, it’s much better than worrying and seeing and not doing something. The people were so thankful, and several people have said thanks. It’s a good feeling at the end of the day to be able to help in some way.”