Neighbor Is a Verb


By Emily Horton

Farmers, ranchers, and good Samaritans in Montana are paying it forward – bringing relief to their fellow producers in Nebraska and they could use more help.

“There is a quote, ‘They say neighbor is a verb,’ and there’s a lot of truth to that,” Michael Takeuchi, a Columbus, Montana resident ready to assist those recovering from devastating weather in Nebraska, said.

“I figured I could do something to help, so I made a Facebook post asking if anyone was interested in helping out those in Nebraska. The first response I got was, ‘I have a truck,’” he said.

Takeuchi said things escalated from there and more individuals reached out offering to lend a hand to producers in need.  Anna Tooke-See was one of those individuals. The Columbus resident explained she grew up a “farm-kid” and identified with producers who lost their livelihood in the floods.  Tooke-See was disappointed by mainstream media’s coverage of the damage in Nebraska and the lack of support for those affected by the floods. She too decided she could make a difference.

Tooke-See, Takeuchi, and two other Montana residents gathered at a café in Columbus last week to determine what they could do to bring relief to producers in Nebraska.

“One individual wrote a check for $2,000 to go towards gas, fencing, and veterinary supplies,” Tooke-See said. “We started raising money for those supplies first.”

Using the momentum gained at the meeting, Tooke-See set up a Facebook page, ‘Montana to Nebraska Flood Relief, let’s get us a convoy’and is now coordinating logistics for the effort.

“We also set up a GoFundMe page and opened an account at a local bank for relief funds,” Takeuchi said. “The GoFundMe is still open for donations. Now, we primarily need money for fuel.”

Donations gathered in Columbus will be hauled to Spencer, Nebraska, a 650-mile-trek one way.  This is when Troy Witt, a rancher and truck driver from Sand Springs, Montana joined the team.  Witt was already gathering hay donations to haul to Nebraska when the Columbus group reached out to him.  Witt was one of the producers affected by fires in Garfield County two years ago and had received hay donations himself while recovering from those losses, so he wanted to return the favor.

“In 2017, we lost 90 percent of our ranch in the Garfield County fires,” Witt said. “The Ashes-to-Ashes group delivered hay and we received supplies from others as well. When the floods in Nebraska happened, I decided this was my turn to give back.”

Takeuchi commended Witt’s attitude.  “They just got burned down and here they’re turning around and giving back.”

Takeuchi said the Nebraska floods will have a long-term and widespread effect, that’s why he felt inclined to help out.

“If you think the floods in Nebraska won’t affect you, think again,” he said.  “This is the American heartland, it’s one of the top agricultural production states in the country.  Market prices will likely be affected by the losses in Nebraska, but people live in their own world and don’t recognize what others are dealing with.”

Madison Mousel, another Montana resident who joined in the efforts, said she chose to help because “it hit so close to home.”  Mousel grew up on a ranch in Nebraska and still has friends and family in the affected areas.

“It’s hard to see people in the agricultural community going through something like this,” Mousel said. “We know how those people care for their livestock, it’s their livelihood.  In the long-run, there will be a substantial impact on the country.  In addition to livestock losses, there is so much silt left from flooding that the land won’t be able to be farmed for some time. It’s heartbreaking.  The grief of losing your livestock, livelihood, and homestead is enormous.”

Even though the Montana groups efforts have garnered much support already, there is still a huge need for help.  The Montana to Nebraska Flood Relief is hoping to get a convoy to Nebraska soon. Witt has at least 13 semi loads of donated hay in need of transport.  He said the effort is currently “at a stand-still” due to a lack of available trucks. Those willing to help who own a legal hay trailer (nothing over 53 feet) should contact Witt at 406-557-2864.

Those interested in assisting with the relief fund, should visit the Facebook page, ‘Montana to Nebraska Flood Relief, let’s get us a convoy’or make monetary donations at Yellowstone Bank in Columbus or via GoFundMe.  For more information, contact Troy Witt (406-557-2864), Michael Takeuchi (406-321-2975), Madison Mousel (406-321-1162), or Anna Tooke-See (406-861-5895).

“The Nebraskan people are so resilient, they will recover from this, we just want to help as much as we can,” Mousel concluded.

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