Jennifer Jones coordinated hay donations from more than 30 people on Whidbey Island to give to farmers in Eastern Washington who were affected by this summer’s wildfires. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Jennifer Jones coordinated hay donations from more than 30 people on Whidbey Island to give to farmers in Eastern Washington who were affected by this summer’s wildfires. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Making hay to help farmers set back by wildfires in Eastern Washington

Whidbey farmers donated 15 tons of hay to farmers in Eastern Washington this weekend.

Whidbey Island farmers donated 15 tons of hay this weekend to farmers in Eastern Washington who suffered losses because of recent wildfires.

Donations came in from all over the island. Jennifer Jones of 3 Sisters Family Farm in Coupeville coordinated the island’s effort.

“It’s hard for people to understand the magnitude of what’s needed,” Jones said.

Friday’s haul was the ninth load from the island, Jones said. Her goal was for 400 bales of hay to make it onto the trailer by the end of the day.

More than 30 people donated everything from the truck, trailer, fuel, hay and even the driver.

Jones said she and her father wanted to help their counterparts on the other side of the state after realizing the good year they had at the farm and hearing about the hardships that some Eastern Washington farmers were facing after the wildfires.

“Not only did they lose winter pasture, they lost all of their haystacks on top of their animals,” Jones said. If some animals did survive the initial flames, they may have been injured and won’t survive long, she added.

“Hay is really important for them to feed the stocks they have left,” said Central Whidbey farmer Don Sherman, who donated nine tons of hay to the effort. “Hopefully this helps them a little bit.”

Jones coordinated with Kellie Hamilton, a horse rancher from Bow, in the recent donation.

“My animals are like my children, so if this happened to me I hope people would help,” Hamilton said.

After volunteers stacked hundreds of 80-pound bales of hay on the trailer at Sherman Farms in Coupeville, driver Mike Hamilton drove south to pick up hundreds more at Maxwelton Farm in South Whidbey.

The need in Eastern Washington is so great, Jones said, that it’s humbling to see the aftermath. Farmers need hay, feed, fencing and all of the others things needed to run a farm after theirs went up in smoke.

The Washington Farm Bureau has set up a disaster relief fund for people to donate monetarily, and farmers from across Western Washington have taken up similar efforts to donate hay and other supplies. More than a half million acres burned in Washington during September, according to Gov. Jay Inslee.

Although the work to corral the many individual donations took a lot of time, planning and phone calls, Jones said it was inspiring to see the response.

“It’s such a big circle of people helping.”

Wailon Starling was part of the volunteers who loaded hundreds of 80-pound hay bales onto a trailer destined for Eastern Washington farmers in need. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Wailon Starling was part of the volunteers who loaded hundreds of 80-pound hay bales onto a trailer destined for Eastern Washington farmers in need. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Volunteers Don Sherman, Jennifer Jones, Mike Hamilton, Kellie Hamilton, Jamie Tripp and Wailon Starling helped load tons of hay onto a donated trailer headed for delivery to Eastern Washington farmers affected by the wildfires.Photos by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Volunteers Don Sherman, Jennifer Jones, Mike Hamilton, Kellie Hamilton, Jamie Tripp and Wailon Starling helped load tons of hay onto a donated trailer headed for delivery to Eastern Washington farmers affected by the wildfires. Photos by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

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