Flood-impacted farmers in Breathitt County rebounding with help from donation warehouse

Breathitt County
Posted at 6:20 PM, Sep 15, 2022

JACKSON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The clock’s ticking for Kentucky farmers as many of them work to restock critical farming supplies lost in July’s flooding.

According to Community Farm Alliance, eastern Kentucky farmers reported almost $3.5 million in property damage and lost income in the first week following flooding.

“We have never seen anything like this around here,” said Breathitt County farmer Frank Clemons.

Clemons saw three feet of water in his barn along with damage to his fencing. Most of all, he worries about hay for himself and his neighbors.

“Hay is gonna be a problem this winter,” said Clemons. “Even if you baled your hay before flooding, that got water all over it, got this mud all over it, and now it’s got this dust in it, and horses won’t eat it, so it’s basically destroyed.”

Fortunately for Clemons and the hundreds of other farmers in Breathitt, Perry, Knott, and Letcher Counties, an ongoing disaster response is committed to helping farmers until they get back on their feet.

“When this flood first hit, my phone started ringing off the hook, and it wasn’t from people who needed assistance, it was from people who wanted to give assistance. Just totally overwhelmed me, 50-60 calls a day,” recalled Perry County Ag Agent Charles May.

Directing trailer traffic at the Breathitt County Industrial Authority warehouse in Jackson, May described an overwhelming response from farmers in Kentucky and across the country.

“The donors…I lost count at 80. I’d say we’re over 100 now, and probably $200,000 of donations have come in plus cash donations and everything else,” said May.

Hauling in a load of hay on Thursday, Brandon Bell told LEX 18 he’d driven three and a half hours from Edmonton to be in Jackson.

“20 rolls of hay, so that sounds like a lot, that’s what’s on this trailer, but when you look at how far it’ll go as far as feeding livestock, it doesn't go that far…it takes a lot,” explained Bell, an ag agent for Metcalfe County Extension.

A producer donated the hay, and Bell donated the time and the trailer for the delivery.

“If he’s willing to give $800 worth of hay out of his pocket, I'm willing to take a day and bring it up here,” said Bell.

The donation warehouse has already seen over $200,000 in donations since it began operations seven weeks ago. For a farmer, the response is only fitting.

“We’ll overcome it, we always do,” said Clemons.