Hay from the heartland; Farmer makes trip to Kansas for aid, the memory of those he’s lost

Published 8:42 am Monday, April 17, 2017

David Schwartz of Rose Creek has endured tremendous personal tragedy as of late. His wife, Mary, succumbed to cancer on Feb. 23, and he has endured the deaths of several friends and family members since 2015.

But instead of letting these tragedies overwhelm him, he let them inspire him to do good for others.

Schwartz, a crop and cattle farmer and regional trucker for Schwartz & Sons Trucking, recently joined others in taking donated feed hay to farmers affected by wildfires in Kansas. He did so in honor of those he has recently lost.

David Schwartz is pictured with some relatives of people close to those he’s lost recently, including his wife’s daughter, Kimberly Sherva; from left, Raelynn Holdgrafer, who’s father was killed in a farm accident; and Dakota Langan, the son of Michael Langan and Shannon Fisher with son Maverick, daughter and grandchild of Michael Langan, who passed away in a house fire. Photos provided

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“I joined about 16 other semis and pick-ups to take mainly hay and some supplies to the south-central Kansas area,” Schwartz said. “We brought over 700 bales of hay worth roughly $50,000.”

While wildfires affected Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, Kansas was hit the hardest, with over 400,000 acres burned in March. The situation was made worse by a lack of rain and winds exceeding 50 miles per hour.

Eight people died during the fires in the four states.

Schwartz donated two semi-loads of hay.

Farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin also donated hay, with VS Family Farms in Sargeant, Minnesota, acting as a delivery point.

Trucks are loaded with hay, ready for the trip to Kansas with bales of hay for farmers in wildfire stricken areas of Kansas.

Once the hay was collected, Schwartz and the others drove it down to Salina, Kansas.

“We contacted the Kansas Livestock Association and there were a couple of ladies who directed the hay deliveries,” said Schwartz, who was directed to Beeler, Kansas.

“I did not see much damage between Salina and Beeler. I offloaded the hay in town because the roads were bad and I couldn’t get to the farm it was intended for. I met a farmer and asked where the damage was and he said it was south of town. He said there was 30 to 40,000 acres that were damaged. Only five farmers were affected, but four of them lost their homes.”

It was from this farmer that Schwartz learned the names of the people who would receive his hay.

“The couple was Max and Mary Prose,” he said. “They almost lost their lives escaping from the fire. Max was in his tractor trying to fight the fire, but it almost overtook him. He drove his tractor to the house and got Mary. Thirty seconds after she got out of the house, it was on fire. They could not leave by the driveway; they had to go through fencing and a drainage ditch to get off their property. He lost all his feed, some out buildings, his house and fences. I did not hear that he lost any cattle.”

Schwartz found that others were wiling to help when they found out what he and the other truckers were doing.

“Our trip to Kansas was a humbling experience,” he said. The truckers were given free coffee, soda and candy along the way.

“A bar patron in Salina offered us meals and a bar tab,” Schwartz said with a laugh.

The generosity of others did not stop once the trip ended. Inver Grove Heights-based CHS Country Operations donated 75 gallons of diesel fuel to Schwartz upon his return. He was one of three people to receive such a donation.

Schwartz has no regrets about his trip.

“If time and money allowed it, I would do it again,” he said.

David Schwartz donated hay in memory of:

•Mary Lou Schwartz, 56, of Rose Creek, Minnesota

•Michael Langan, 58, of Austin, Minnesota

•Roger Mullenbach, 58, of Adams, Minnesota

•Mark Meany, 54, of Rose Creek

•Karen (Hummel) Christiansen, 52, of Albert Lea, Minnesota

•Jordan Jensen, 20, of Austin

•Ryan Holdgrapher, 27, of Lyle, Minnesota

•Helayma Ly Nguyen, 19, of Austin

•Todd Grosland, 51, of Austin and Fremont, Nebraska